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Cleveland State Implements Literacy Garden for BEST Partner Taylor Elementary 

Lady Bugs shared the spotlight with the students, faculty, and staff of Taylor Elementary School at the dedication of their new Service-Learning Literacy Garden. The ribbon cutting ceremony opened activities for Taylor’s Read for the Record event, where students and faculty enjoyed reading Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, by David Soman and Jacky Davis. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Campaign focuses on helping students make gains in crucial language and literacy skills. The international program was designed to encourage young people, their families, and educators to set world records year-over-year by creating the largest shared reading experience.  This year’s event was held Thursday, October 4. 

Dr. Sherry Shroyer, Taylor Elementary Principal, welcomed Dr. Johnny McDaniel, Superintendent, Bradley County Schools and Dr. Carl Hite, President, Cleveland State Community College, as guest speakers for the reading and ribbon cutting event. She also welcomed guests, Kelly Ormsby and Suzanne Bennett (from Cleveland State), Sherry Crye (Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce), and Shenna Newman (Bradley County Schools).  Dr. Shroyer was especially proud to welcome Taylor Elementary students who participated in the event: Samuel Morgan and London Smith provided introductions, speakers Ashton Roe, Bailey Cofer, Ethan Wilds, and Brydon Stedman shared their hopes for the garden, and Abigail Beasley and Alexi Barnes extended thanks to Beaty Fertilizer, Inc and Jackie Evans for donating and delivering dirt for plant beds, Ace Hardware for donating hay bales, LuAnn Gilliland,  Bradley Central Agri-Science program who donated flowers, Cleveland State for donating flowers and garden tools, and individual volunteers who donated time and labor to make the garden a reality.  

 Shroyer commemorated the day by reading “The Story of the Literacy Garden” to the students and audience. Debbie Shroyer and Deanna Goins (Taylor faculty) read and presented books written by students in appreciation of Rob Ormsby, a Cleveland State graduate and husband of Kelly Ormsby, Literacy Garden Project Team Leader, who built beautiful raised plant beds and a pergola featured in the garden.  

 McDaniel recognized the campus transformation and congratulated the students, “What a great day at Taylor Elementary to dedicate your Literacy Garden on behalf of Bradley County Schools. I congratulate you and am so proud of you and your hard work!”  

 Hite greeted Taylor students and pointed out Cleveland State students Filipe Borges Goncalves, Trevor Hancock, and Alexander Parker who were at the event as reading volunteers.  Dr. Hite continued by recognizing the great importance of the Literacy Garden, “You are doing two things here today…growing food that will nourish your body and reading—which will nourish your minds.  Cleveland State is glad to be part of the Taylor family and look forward to working with you many, many days.” 

For some time, Kelly Ormsby, CSCC Associate Professor of English and Learning Support, has been interested in incorporating a service-learning project into her curriculum. The idea for a literacy garden resulted from a conversation with Jennifer Norton, Director of The Greenway Table, about the connection between nutrition and literacy.  The Greenway Table’s mission is “to enhance and enable communities through the power of food.” They connect people to food and the importance of food choices for health, the economy, and the environment. 

 Ormsby explained, “A literacy garden is a setting to encourage exploration and learning where books and writing are connected to the natural environment—a perfect on-going service-learning opportunity for CSCC students.” She continued, “Service-Learning makes learning so much more meaningful by helping students connect to something in the community; it is just incredibly rewarding. My students often tell me they want to do something that makes a difference in the community, but don’t know how to go about it. That is why this project seemed like such a natural fit. Some students tell me there has never been a time in their lives where they enjoyed reading—not even as children. It is my hope that working with the Taylor students will nurture a desire and confidence to read more.”  Ormsby credits CSCC as an environment that encourages and supports faculty, staff, and student efforts to engage with the community in meaningful ways.

 The Literacy Garden Project Team is made up of volunteers from Cleveland State, Taylor Elementary, and The Greenway Table: Suzanne Bennett, Traci Blackburn, Sarah Copeland, Jill Kincaid, Jennifer Norton, Kelly Ormsby (leader), Rob Ormsby, Stephanie Rountree, Debbie Shroyer, and Sherry Shroyer.  Over the past few months, the team has been involved in planning sessions and campus work days to accomplish a number of important tasks, including rallying students, faculty, family, and friends to vote in the Nature Hills Nursery Green America Award competition—where Taylor Elementary won second place and $1250 in plants for the book-themed literacy garden. Ormsby said, “I appreciate Suzanne Wood, Associate Professor, Coordinated Early Childhood Education, for sharing information about the Green America Award.  Her passion for literacy is a true inspiration.”  The team also applied for and won a $250 grant from Volunteer Electric Cooperative, which will be put to good use to enrich the garden area.   

 On October 3rd the team was joined by all Taylor Elementary students and many faculty and staff members, as well as Cleveland State faculty and students— Kathleen Austin, Andrew Foskey, Donathan Hutchinson, Beth McCamy , Stephen Nwagbogwu,  Jenish Patel,  Ryan Thompson, and Zach Waters— for an all-out effort to ensure the garden was ribbon-cutting ready!  Kelly expressed appreciation to Sherry Holloway, Service-Learning Coordinator, who shared the team’s vision and helped facilitate progress.

Taylor Elementary students have been directly involved in the Literacy Garden project from the beginning. They measured the garden, drew design suggestions, and tracked sun exposure for plant beds. On October 3rd they rallied around the garden by working with the adult team to shovel dirt, carry buckets, fill raised plant beds, plant flowers, and carry lumber.  They also painted rocks as ladybugs and placed them throughout the plant beds.  

Suzanne Bennett, CSCC Horticulture Technician said, “The Literacy Garden is a wonderful project. I loved working with the Taylor Elementary kids. They are so much fun and their school is so energizing!  I’m glad Kelly had the idea for this project and made it come together so well and so quickly.”  

 As BEST Partners, Taylor Elementary and Cleveland State faculty members believe the garden will foster a “holistic approach to literacy,” Ormsby said, “emphasizing the connection between nurturing our bodies and minds, our communities and the environment—a curriculum of nurture.” Taylor Elementary plans to incorporate the garden into their Parent University events, such as an evening community program where parents are invited to attend campus workshops. One of the workshops under consideration is a Chef’s Night, where community chefs will come on campus to provide healthy cooking demos, using simple, low budget recipes and possibly some of the ingredients from the campus garden. They may also sponsor workshops to teach vegetable gardening, composting and other things that parents can do at home. The team also hopes to plant fruit trees by the ball fields, providing students with free produce and encouraging healthy choices.

“The Literacy Garden is an extremely exciting endeavor for our students, staff, and community,” stated Shroyer. “Cleveland State has initiated, planned, and provided grants for this project. We are thankful for their vision to establish and promote the development of this literacy garden.”  

 “Under Dr. Shroyer’s leadership, the Taylor faculty is doing amazing things for their children and community; we are just so proud to be a part of their great work,” Ormsby said.

 Shroyer stated, “Through this project, our students and families will learn about growing, tending, and harvesting a variety of plants, herbs and vegetables while promoting other disciplines to include science, math, social studies and literacy. Cleveland State and the Taylor Literacy Team worked together to complete the first phase of the garden by October 4th, in honor of our National Read for the Record Day.  It is an exciting year for our BEST Partnership as we work to “Empower Our Future Together.’”