05 • 13 • 2013

Surfrider Club At Florida Elementary School Plants First Ocean Friendly Garden

Fresh off launching a Surfrider QUAD Youth Club, students at Indialantic Elementary School decided they wanted to get their hands in the soil and build an Ocean Friendly Garden. Their QUAD Club Advisor, Meridiith Theodoropoulos, guided them through the process, from identifying a site on campus (pictured at right), to getting a grant and coordinating getting all materials and volunteers.

Meridith learned from Youth QUAD Manager, Ericka Canales, about a grant opportunity through the Darden Foundation, which owns restaurant chains like Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Darden awarded the Club a $2,000 grant to cover the costs of the project and Club membership.

Next, Meridith connected with Bill Deluccia for native plant advice. Bill is a member of the Conradina Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and native plant consultant/educator, and had helped install a native plant garden at the School. Then a native plant nursery came out to consult about design (pictured at left), plant choices, and plants prices.

The day before the workday (aka Garden Assistance Party), existing grasses and weeds were pulled out by hand. Meridith also got ahold of a basic set of tools and asked parents to bring what they had. The workday itself had a good turnout of solid students and parents. (They were even blessed with some rain.) The kids loved planting and learning about the native plants. Some of the children named the plants they planted and are looking forward to watching them grow. All of them were looking forward to the next school day to show and tell their friends about the great garden they helped create.

Meridith created a bingo game centered around the native plants, and the kids are such great learners that they can teach it to others. The kids were also very curious about the rainwater downspout dissapator and swale (shown below). The dissapator performs two key functions:

  • It gets water away from a building's foundation or a cemented walkway.
  • Slows down rainwater rushing out of the bottom of the downspout, preventing soil and plants from being blown out.

The swale (or dry stream bed) also helps to “receive” the water and clearly demonstrates to the all who pass by about how the garden sponges up rainwater in the soil and helps filter pollutants.

In addition to the garden being an on-going learning tool for students (water use, water quality, habitat), the site could be utilized as part of OFG community classes and events. Speaking of the nearby community, under the City's swale program, the City digs the swales, but requires installation of St. Augustine grass. This presents an opportunity for the nearby Sebastian Inlet Surfrider Chapter to engage Bill to approach the Mayor and City Manager about using a native plant palette. The Chapter might also be able to help the City with outreach and education to inspire all residents to install swales.

The School's principal loved the educational and beautification benefits. Bill will continue to advise the Club about maintenance.