New science garden gives Vienna students insights on nature

The paths were muddy and the plants had just begun to sprout, but Green Hedges School students eagerly swarmed over a new Science & Native Garden following an April 27 dedication ceremony.

The 5,600-square-foot garden, which features about 600 flowers and plants that are native to Virginia, is designed to enhance the Vienna private school’s biology and ecology programs, said Head of School Robert Gregg.

The garden was built on the site of a former house on Green Hedges’ property and has a two-space parking area in front that is used by maintenance crews.

In addition to plants and flowers, the garden features meandering pathways, a water feature surrounded by colorfully painted rocks and a gathering area with logs and stumps, where students and teachers can relax and reflect on their surroundings.

The ceremony was the culmination of two years’ worth of efforts, which included fund-raising at a special “raise the paddle” initiative during the school’s 2016 gala auction, Gregg said.

Ever since the school’s founding at the Arlington home of Frances and Kenton Kilmer in 1942, “it remains fitting that Green Hedges’ program be one where all learning is interconnected, where all facets of the brain are engaged and where there is an appreciation for the aesthetic,” he told the crowd.

The school, which moved to its current location at 415 Windover Ave., N.W., in Vienna in 1955, held 75th-anniversary celebrations at the start of its 2016-17 school year. Green Hedges serves students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The garden dedication featured  recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance and Green Hedges’ creed, a performance of “Inch by Inch” (aka “Garden Song”) by the school’s first- and second-graders, and the singing of school song “My Master Hath a Garden,” with keyboard accompaniment by student Ryane Jones.

Eighth-grader Richie Kallas, wielding oversized scissors brought by Vienna Mayor Laurie DiRocco, cut the ceremonial green ribbon that was strung between two trees.

Students Kayla Schulenberg, Matthew Giuntini and Sofie Levine thanked math teacher Matthew Fisher for his efforts at bringing the garden to fruition and involving all the students in the project. The trio gave Fisher a toy tractor, a hat to shade his head from the sun and a gift envelope.

Gregg also gave a gift basket to Marlise Green, whose seventh-grade daughter attends the school, for helping design the garden. Green, co-owner of Landscape Management Group in Arlington, produced a computer-aided-design  schematic of the garden, showing the various flower and plant groupings in a rainbow of colors.

The new garden aligns well with Green Hedges’ strategic plan, which aims to give children and teachers the best possible tools and most nurturing environment, said Gharun Hester, chairman of the school’s Buildings and Grounds Committee.

“Today, Green Hedges has reached another very proud and successful moment in its history and is poised for only greater moments in the future,” Hester said.