Surprises bloom in Maxey Elementary courtyard

Tucked away in a courtyard, seen through the Maxey library windows, is an incredible courtyard garden. This space, with raised beds, flowering plants, and wildlife, is utilized for outdoor learning and education. Plants leftover from school fundraising and plants donated by volunteers were added to the courtyard. Currently, the garden is maintained by Sheri Christen, Maxey librarian, and parent volunteers Doug Golick and Tamra Putensen.

The blooming courtyard garden was funded by PTO and an EPA grant that allowed the PTO volunteers to take the space to another level in 2020 with major renovations. Some plants were removed to make room for more pollinator-friendly plants.  “Doug Golick and one of his colleagues helped us determine what species would do well in our courtyard. I planted the new plants in the fall and crossed my fingers that everything would survive the winter. In the spring of 2021 I was pleasantly surprised that everything was alive and beginning to grow,” stated Tamra Putensen, a Maxey Parent and garden volunteer. In the summer of 2021, raised beds were added and seeds were purchased for students to plant.  

The seeds sprouted (with dill, parsley and more) and now the raised beds are a common spot for many Swallowtail butterflies. Tamra exclaimed, “at one point I counted 15 caterpillars on the dill!” The garden is home to some well-known plants such as tulips, milkweed, and daffodils and some lesser known species like Beautyberry and Blue Muffin Viburnum. This great mix of plants attracts a multitude of pollinators. The Garden even has an Insect Hotel for the busy bugs to take a rest. Also included in this magical courtyard is a pond with fish and turtles, storage for tools, and outdoor seating.

During the summer, the garden is used by summer school classes. The students feed the fish and turtles and spend time in the garden. During the school year, Students use the garden for many purposes. Classes go out to the garden for writing, calming time, and observing wildlife and plants. Maxey is currently working to make new curriculum connections with the garden for all grade levels to bring even more classes outside.