Wednesday, May 17, 2017


ASA Community Garden 2.0 - A Design Thinking Challenge

Have you seen our second attempt at a school garden? It already looks incredibly improved compared to last year! Although our first ASA community garden was very successful, we spent time this past fall asking how we might improve. Space use, water, nutrients, staffing and produce use were identified as key areas for growth. This year’s 7th grade class was then posed with the design challenge of “How might we improve our garden in terms of space, water, nutrients, and community partners?” As students began exploring this problem we were blessed with important new community connections.

Fr. Tom Page passed on information about World Renew, an organization with headquarters in Grand Rapids that works around the world to renew hope, reconcile lives, and restore creation. In some of our initial contacts with World Renew, the 7th grade was interested in learning international farming techniques via a World Renew missionary working in Malawi. This presentation inspired ongoing research about the prospect of how chickens and even goats might one day become a part of our garden project.

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While building our relationship with World Renew we learned they are partnering with Urban Roots of Grand Rapids to provide resources to budding new urban garden projects. We are so honored to be one of the first grant recipients for this new partnership. You can read more about the program here.

Our new partnership with Urban Roots has already produced an improved space use design and a more intentional produce planting schedule. We also have a watering stand and irrigation timer so manual watering is no longer necessary. On Monday afternoons members of the Urban Roots team drive up in their mobile classroom to work with the 7th grade in the garden. This past week they were also joined by the kindergarten. Next week 3rd grade will have a chance to do some work in the garden when they visit the middle school campus, and 4th grade has also spent some time working with Miss Giroux in the garden recently.

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Urban Roots will continue to come to ASA Monday afternoons from 1:50 to 2:50 through the summer. All ASA community members are invited to stop by during this time to do a little garden work. Tools and tasks will be provided by Urban Roots. When possible there will also be mini educational sessions on these Mondays. We may open a few evening community gardening options. Details will be communicated when ironed out.

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The 7th grade has also reconnected with one of our Groundswell partners, WMEAC, this spring to begin construction of rain barrels. One of the twist tables at Eaglefest this year was for garden irrigation. Not only are rain barrels a proven and easy strategy for storm water management and improving local water quality, they are also an ecologically responsible method for watering our garden and native plants.


Since the 7th grade used the Design Thinking process to drive our garden work this year we were invited to share our Garden 2.0 work at a Diocese of Grand Rapids Catholic Schools Student Showcase. The event was held at Aquinas College in April, and highlighted Human Centered Design Projects from 5 local Catholic schools, as well as leadership projects using this process. Students spoke with about 150 community members about their work and also shared ideas with each other.

“At the design thinking showcase, I had the opportunity to talk and share our garden ideas with many people, including Sister Rosita (above), the assistant superintendent, Mrs. Annable,  and the superintendent, Mr. Faber!  The experience at the showcase was an amazing one! I enjoyed talking about something that I was passionate about!”

-Aiden McGavin

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