Tucked away under a room full of books is a Hillside Elementary School garden for reading and writing. For the first-graders who were the first to share their stories, it’s already become a not-so-secret garden.
Jacqueline Kestler led her students to the outdoor classroom carved out by parent volunteers just a flight below the elementary school’s media center.
On a September afternoons, with the first hint of fall in the air and sunny skies, she read aloud, “I Like Myself,” a story on self-esteem by Karen Beaumont. It provided the seed for the first-graders to begin writing their own books, “I’m One of a Kind.”
On paper and in whispers to partners, they shared their secrets about what makes them different. They learned, for instance, that their teacher enjoys camping. Some shared they liked their blue eyes, others they had a baby brother.
The Hillside Parent Teacher Association donated the money for landscaping, steps and mats for the garden, said Christina Weiner, who served last year as the group’s president.
Weiner painted with her daughters the colorful lettering for the garden spelling out the name of the school. DiIanni Landscaping and Ialeggio Contracting also donated services.
"The PTA was excited to use its resources to expand the learning space at Hillside [Elementary School]," Weiner said.
What did the students think of their first lesson in the sun?
“Actually, I loved it,” said Leah, a student at Hillside School. As her Hillside classmates climbed the steps back to the library, a little voice floated in the wind, “Bye-bye beautiful garden.”
Marilyn Joyce Lehren is the Manager of Communications/Community Outreach for Livingston Public Schools.