Bishop Luers High School senior Tommy McComb understands the importance of gardening after growing up with a garden at his home. This inspired him to create the St. Francis Teaching Garden, a community garden located on the campus of Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne.
The project’s purpose is to teach future generations about gardening, pollination, and food systems. McComb and those who helped him built the garden with the vision that students in science and health classes at Bishop Luers, as well as nearby Lutheran South Unity School students, could come learn about gardening, as well as plant and grow their own flowers and produce. Any food grown in the garden will be distributed to families in need through local churches and other community centers.
Planning for this project began almost a year ago, when McComb first had the idea. He discussed details with others and applied for grants online through the winter and spring of the 2022-23 school year. While McComb didn’t end up receiving the grants he applied for, he said it was a learning experience for him. After speaking with the BLHS Office of Mission Advancement, he decided to do an online fundraiser for the garden project. BLHS helped promote the project on social media, and he was able to secure the $3,000 needed for the garden to become a reality.
He worked together with his grandfather, Ted McComb, a member of the Carpenter’s Sons group, to build the garden boxes and lay the stone foundation. They broke ground on the garden in July of 2023. The process included staking out the garden area in the grass behind BLHS, removing the grass, laying a crushed stone base, building the frames, and filling them with dirt.
“It’s been a learning opportunity for me,” McComb said regarding the project. “You don’t just build some garden boxes; it takes a lot more than you think.”
In September, a first-grade class from Lutheran South Unity School visited the St. Francis Teaching Garden. McComb greeted them and taught them how to plant and care for seeds. The students planted produce that would grow well in cooler weather, such as arugula, radishes, and spinach. During their first visit, the students had so many questions as they planted the seeds. When they returned for a follow-up visit, they saw that the seeds had sprouted, and it made them very happy. “I think the kids have really enjoyed it,” McComb said.
A pollinator garden with various flowers was planted in one of the garden boxes in order to teach students the importance of pollinators and how they affect the ecosystem. A Girl Scout troop came to plant milkweed seeds and earned a patch in the process.
McComb also wants to conduct research to track the success of the garden. He administered a survey to the Lutheran South Unity students before the project to see their initial thoughts about gardens. He will send out a follow-up survey at the end of the year to see if the students learned something from the garden activities, and if the garden was a success.
With McComb being a senior at BLHS, he arranged for the school’s Key Club to continue the upkeep of the St. Francis Teaching Garden after he graduates.
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