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Gratitude Garden sows seeds of appreciation for faculty, campus

Jamie Kim co-editor-in-chief

As much of the school remains in the throes of construction, there is very little greenery around campus. What used to be stretches of freshly-cut grass, the front lawn is now a plot of dirt and dried weeds. The Village is comprised of identical bungalows, separated by metal fences and strictly aligned on the slab of cement.

In an effort to revamp the campus’s bland look and to generate a sense of unity and appreciation among the staff, English teacher Minna Kim is spearheading the Gratitude Garden. The Garden is a wall of various succulents and plants, which will be created on the fence by the wall, which previously had a faded Superman painting and the Class of ‘01 sign, closest to the Village.

Every time a faculty member thanks another faculty member for some deed or action, a new plant is planted in the garden in honor of that staff member. Currently, there are roughly 120 plants “representing the thank you’s people have written for faculty members.” Additionally, students can write thank-you notes on rocks and add them to the garden.

The Gratitude Garden comes from Kim’s proposal for a national competition, How might we inspire experiences and expressions of gratitude in the workplace? If Kim wins this competition, she will receive a grant of $40,000 to expand the Gratitude Garden and bring the proposal to life.

“What the Gratitude Garden is, is the prototype of the idea. We’re testing out that idea. If we get the grant, then great! We get more gardens, hopefully,” Kim said.

In essence, she hopes the garden will foster appreciation within the faculty, all while having a decorative, lively feature to the campus.

“Another purpose of this project is that teachers, not just teachers but people who work in the cafeteria, are not getting to interact with each other a whole bunch. I rarely see people who work in the science building. So this is one way to increase our interactions with each other in a way that’s positive,” Kim said.

Kim’s inspiration for the garden also stemmed from wanting to find a way to thank faculty members for their work and dedication to the school.

“I thought about how we say thank you at the end of somebody’s career, at their retirement party or at the end of the year, when thank you is something that can fuel people to have more energy for what they do, find their work more meaningful, understand that it’s more meaningful for other people,” Kim said. “They probably need to hear it while they’re doing the work rather than after they’ve done the work.”

Also, when her friend from high school’s husband died of cancer last year, Kim supported her friend by tending to her garden together. Through this, Kim saw the therapeutic benefits of working with nature.  

“I’ve never gardened before, like I generally kill plants, so it taught me a lot about how being around nature can be healing and stress relieving, and watching things grow is also healing,” Kim said.

Ali Norman-Franks, the intervention counselor at the Norman Aid Center, helped bring in the funds needed to kickstart the garden.

“I approached PTSA to see if they would be willing to help, and they had a budget for beautification for the school, so they were really helpful. They were happy to help the project, and it turned out really well,” Norman-Franks said.

Current board member Howard Goldstein also donated some funds to start this garden because he sees the benefits it will bring to campus.

“I understand that the PTSA was donating some of the funds to start the project, and I felt that I could give them some seed money to help buy some more terraces and pockets…” Goldstein said. “I think the concept of a gratitude space for staff and students to come to, meditate and decompress is a phenomenal idea.”

Most importantly, Kim hopes the Gratitude Garden will act as an avenue for positivity.

“I think there are channels to find out what sucks at this school, what’s horrible right now that we need to fix,” Kim said. “But there aren’t really channels of communication where we can communicate here’s what’s awesome and here’s what’s great about being here.”

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