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Scouts restore garden at Oakland Elementary

(c) Butler Eagle 2013 - reprinted with permission

By Connie Pilston Shoemaker
Eagle news correspondent

OAKLAND TWP - 9/11/2013 — A plan, a project and a passion combined to pretty up a school space.

Several Girl Scouts from Troop 26370 decided to restore a garden at their school for their Bronze Award Project. The Bronze Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve. The six girls who earned their Bronze Award for the work at Oakland Elementary School, 545 Chicora Road, were Bridget McTighe, Ireland McKivigan, Isabella Valentino, Asti Atkison, Autumn Montag and Gabrielle Lucas. Shellie McTighe the junior troop leader, helped the girls to locate the right resources for their project. “The girls wanted to do a project that they felt passionate about, and how they could make a difference in their neighborhood and community. They enjoy flowers and plants and thought a project at their elementary school would be a great place for this idea,” said McTighe. The two-year effort involved defining the project and goals the first year, then implementing and focusing on the project the second year.

McTighe found the Southern Butler County Garden Club online and contacted it for advice. She was connected with club member Karen Faust. “Mrs. Faust became our project adviser and assisted our girls for the last six months of the project. She spent many meetings with us teaching the girls about flowers and shrubs and even assisted the girls with the work days that they scheduled at the school,” said McTighe. “When I came on board last December, we discussed what would interest them and be applicable to the garden. I attended several of their monthly meetings to discuss the details of a timetable I laid out so the project would be completed by the end of school,” said Faust, who began in gardening at about the same age as the Scouts. “I think it is important for me personally to share my love of plants with the hope it sparks an interest in gardening for others to see and enjoy,” said Faust.

The Southern Butler County Garden Club applied for a $75 seed money grant from the Federated Garden Club of Pennsylvania, which helped the Scouts fund their project. “We met in early May at a garden center to select our planting materials. Rose Romboski, president of the South Butler County Garden Club had applied in the winter, and the check arrived just as we needed to purchase our materials,” said Faust. Each girl was required to do a minimum of 20 hours of work each, which included planning, researching, planting, cleanup and developing a watering schedule. “They also had scheduled work days at the school, digging up shrubs, weeding and getting their hands dirty,” explained McTighe.

While Bridget McTighe, one of the Girl Scouts involved, enjoyed knowing she made a difference in her school, it was getting dirty that she really enjoyed. “Laughing with my friends and getting our hands dirty was really fun,” said Bridget. The sixth grader also learned what it was like to be part of a team to achieve a goal that she and her friends organized.

Isabella Valentino has been in Scouting since first grade. “It is cool when I come to Oakland and see how our troop helped to change the look of the school,” she said. “It was awesome how we all worked together to reach our goal.” The school was very supportive of the Scouts’ request and interest in having the flower garden revived.

“The principals were on board with the girls’ ideas and suggestions and even offered a few of their own. The assistant to the principal, Mr. Chad Broman, stopped out one night to see the progress while we were there for one of our work nights,” said McTighe. “On the last day of school, in pouring rain, we dedicated the garden. The principal, parents, grandparents and I watched the girls receive their well-deserved awards and patches,” said Faust. “We are delighted that the Girl Scouts chose Oakland for such a beautiful project,” said Broman.

The garden features a sculpture that memorializes the Scouts’ efforts. “We wanted something in the garden to represent the girls’ troop name, number and date. My husband created a metal sculpture that represents each of the six girls, along with a plaque that shows their troop number and the date in which the garden was restored,” said McTighe.