Garden to Help Enhance Students’ Needs

Garden to Help Enhance Students’ Needs
Roughly 11 weeks ago,  Jessica Bogacz was hired to Tinley Park High School as a speech-language pathologist. When Bogacz first met with her students, she asked students a variety of questions to understand their goals, struggles, and how they preferred to learn. She also asked some basic questions to get to know students, such as what were the type of things they enjoyed doing in their free time. Bogacz learned that the majority of her students liked to be outside, struggled with vocabulary, and said they learned better through hands-on activities. 

In listening to her students’ needs, Bogacz decided to develop a gardening unit to help enhance and promote students’ expressive and receptive language skills. 

She first sought out the administrative aid of Tinley Park High School Associate Principal Randy Couwenhoven to secure access to a courtyard where students could help plant a small garden. She then contacted Ron Banovich and Bill Stearns of the Tinley Park maintenance department who helped her to locate tools for the program. 

Upon talking about this idea with Stearns, he recommended that she reach out to Ted’s Greenhouse in Tinley Park because the owners had children who went through Tinley Park High School. Almost immediately, Ted’s generously agreed to donate plants along with some other planting supplies. Thus, the program was created and students immediately began to take part in the process by planting fall mums in the open space. 

The unit benefits both the students, by targeting key academic and communication skills like semantics, vocabulary development, utilizing context clues to define unfamiliar words, and all of Tinley Park High by beautifying the courtyard. 

Students who do not want to actively partake in gardening, can also work on the project by helping Bogacz plan what should be planted in the garden next, what kind of mulch should be used, when the plants should be watered, and other strategic planning items. 

Bogacz says students involved in the planning process have already figured out an issue they may have in the future which is water reclamation. Because there is not an easy source of water near the garden, students and Bogacz are working with Stearns to obtain a rain barrel to help solve this potential problem. 

While Bogacz sometimes gardens as a hobby, she claims that she is “not an expert by any means” and said, “I didn’t create the program around my own knowledge and skills. I just thought it was a great topic knowing their goals, that it needed to be a hands-on activity, and that the space was available.” 

Students spend time with Bogacz based on their needs. At a minimum, most of Bogacz’s students will spend roughly 30 minutes a week with her. 

“The goal is to increase motivation while building on language skills,” says Bogacz. “This program will allow my students to strengthen comprehension and synchronization skills in a fun and interactive way.” 

Bogacz said that the program will continue into the spring. She also hopes a future project will include planting herbs and possibly utilizing the greenhouse in the main Tinley Park High School courtyard to start some plants as seeds. Herbs grown could then be used for cross-content lessons with the Family and Consumer Science Department for cooking lessons.