Jackson-Milton garden brings hope, smiles


NORTH JACKSON — For students at Jackson-Milton schools, 2021 will be remembered as special — the year a garden of fun was completed and put into use.

“The butterfly garden” is a well-planned labyrinth, a garden that was completed with a lot of community help, according to garden planner and fifth-grade math teacher Rachel Emerson.

“It started with a $1,000 grant from the student council fund,” Emerson said.

She said the idea actually came from school guidance counselor Christine Ginnis.

“She wanted to make a garden at the school in honor of Tiffany Obardovich,” Emerson said.

Obardovich was a Jackson-Milton teacher who died in 2008 after fighting cancer. Emerson said she was loved by many staff members and loved butterflies.

With the grant, Emerson began planning a garden that would be in the shape of a labyrinth. Along the walkway, she included stations where students could take part in activities such as stacking rocks, playing tic-tac-toe, balancing, weaving and just plain relaxing with a good book. All the stations and everything that went into the garden was the result of a lot of help — even more than was expected.

“We started with the $1,000 grant and then a lot of local donations came in,” Emerson said. “They came out of the woodwork and in the end we didn’t even use the whole $1,000.”

She said the entire community, both residents and businesses, got behind the project. Donations of items, services and money came in to get the project going.

Emerson said she grew up in Leetonia and gardening was always a passion. She felt a community garden would be fun to design and build at the school, and the uses are endless. Math students used it near the end of the school year to study temperature readings and make charts using various math skills. The garden also can be used by science and biology classes, and even an English literature class could take reading outside thanks to several specialty benches.

Emerson said the garden can be used by any teacher to hold outdoor classes.

The garden also can be used for students to walk and enjoy the calming effect of the labyrinth.

“It makes me feel good to look out my classroom window and see students using the garden the way it was meant to be used,” she said. “It’s way more of a hit than I could have imagined it to be. All the items in it came from parents, businesses and the PTA at Jackson-Milton Elementary.”

For the summer, a group of students agreed to help weed and water the gardens until school starts in the fall.

While the garden will continue to grow and will include additional plants, Emerson said students may be growing them this fall. A greenhouse has been ordered for the elementary school, which will go in near the garden. The students can then grow plants from seed and learn the science behind it. Administrators thought the idea was so good, a second greenhouse is being considered for the high school.

Emerson is passionate about the students at Jackson-Milton and hopes the butterfly garden will be enjoyed and will serve as a tool for all teachers to use. She was named “educator of the year” by the Jackson-Milton Board of Education because of her hard work and caring nature.

jtwhitehouse@vindy.com

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