Being One with Nature at Bailey Middle School

As we walked around Bailey Middle School to their greenhouses, we were greeted by a lizard running across the sidewalk into the wildflower area beside us. Bailey has been working for years to improve sustainability on campus. 

“This is the fifth or sixth Bright Green Future Grant we have been awarded,” says Mike Berryman, a campus volunteer whose two sons attended Bailey. Despite them graduating years ago, Mike has continued to champion green projects, from tree plantings to greenhouses to water conservation. “Some people golf. This is what I do,” Mike shared.

Mike Berryman holds a small wicking bed in the Bailey Middle School greenhouse

Mike Berryman shows a smaller model of the wicking beds currently being used in the Bailey Middle School greenhouse.

This year, Bailey was awarded $3,000 through the Bright Green Future Grants Program to create wicking garden beds. The new beds will offer expanded garden space, increasing food production for the Garden to Cafe program. When applying for the grant, Mike researched a technique that utilizes repurposed Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) Totes, which, as a bonus, means that plastic that would otherwise end up in a landfill will now allow students to experience the benefits of outdoor learning and growing their own food. As the school year came to a close, we met with Mike and students on campus as they worked on building the new beds and preparing the campus garden for the summer.

Quincy, a current sixth grader, was helping to saw the IBC totes in half. He likes visiting the garden because it opens him up to new perspectives. “I get to experience different kinds of food and cultures. I get to experience different flavors and feel what it feels like to be a farmer.”

Another group of students concentrated on shoveling sand out of Mike’s truck, which will be used to add weight to the wicking beds. Thomas, a rising seventh grader, reflects on his experience visiting the garden throughout the year. “It’s something I’ve never experienced ever before because usually we’re just in the classroom learning. I get to use some of my energy, be one with nature, and also just hang out with some of my friends while being productive in the garden.”

A photo collage of students shoveling sand from a pickup truck, students posing with shovels, and students working with power tools at a workbench outside.

Top: Students shovel sand from the back of Mike’s pick up truck. The sand will serve as a weight in the new wicking beds. Bottom left: Bailey Middle School students pose with shovels. Bottom right: Thomas (left) and Quincy (right) use power tools to assemble the repurposed IBC tote wicking beds.

Mike’s work on the campus isn’t done. He’ll continue working with parents over the summer to finish the garden beds and is already thinking of future plans. “We’d like to add a shed inside the deer fence and a big shade structure,” says Mike. “Knowing that the Bright Green Future Grants Program is there allows us to dream up projects.”

The Bailey Middle School greenhouses and gardens.

The Bailey Middle School Greenhouse, which will soon include new wicking beds.