Bulb Project Helps ESOL Students Blossom

Bulb Project Helps ESOL Students Blossom

Bulb grant allows Frost Middle School to start outdoor classroom.

Knowledge is blooming all over Frost Middle School, as English Speakers of Other Language students are participating in a special plant-bulb-based learning project.

The National Gardening Association donated 200 flowering bulbs to the school as part of the Kids Growing with Dutch Bulbs grant program. Some of the bulbs will be used to plant experimental and butterfly gardens in the school’s courtyard, and some will be forced to bloom indoors so students can learn how they develop and grow.

“We’re really happy about this," said Cathy Faraj, chairwoman of the ESOL Department and teacher at Frost. "It’s a really nice thing for the ESOL kids to do.”

According to Faraj, the program serves two purposes. “It will beautify the school area, and they can be used in the science classroom to cut apart and see how bulbs grow and work."

Carlos Budding, who took over science classes from Faraj this year, will be working most directly with the ESOL students on the project, she said.

Last year, the school won the $500 Johnny Forte Grant through Clean Fairfax, which was used to start the garden. “I wanted to naturalize the courtyard, but the kids wanted to spell out FMS in flowers,” Faraj said. “I let them, and it looked great, but this year I’ll have to be more insistent.”

The ESOL students will greatly benefit from the forced blooming of the bulbs and their dissection, Faraj said, because many of them may already know the names of the plant parts in their native language.

“These are kids with one or two years or less in the United States, but soon they’ll be fluent in English,” she said.

Faraj said that she hopes to win a grant to build a greenhouse in the same courtyard to further the bulb program in the future.

“This is totally Cathy’s project. I knew she’d take the kids to a whole different level with learning,” said principal Marti Jackson.

“She’s got an artistic flair with her classes. She’s so enthusiastic that she makes things come to life,” she said.

FROST HAS two courtyards. One contains three picnic tables donated by the PTA to be part of an outdoor classroom, along with a pond that art students use for their sketching assignments. The other courtyard is where the flower gardens are, and where the greenhouse would go if a grant is secured, Faraj said.

“We’re trying to naturalize the courtyard,” she said, not wanting to limit the flowers to specific flower beds.

“These kids really get into the courtyard, and we’re really trying to keep it as natural as possible,” said Jennifer Roche-Buch, a life-science teacher and the Science Department chair.

“We’re so excited that the kids get an opportunity to go from seed to see how it grows,” she said. The dissection of the bulbs is a great chance for the students to look for specific parts of the bulb and figure out how it all works together, she said.

“We did leaf classifications today, and they’re really paying attention. They were looking out the window and pointing out trees and leaves,” Roche-Buch said. “It’s amazing how they get into these things.”

A lack of funds, however, limits what projects the school can undertake.

“We have great plans, but the money doesn’t always come in for them,” she said. “We haven’t had the money to beautify the pond. Funding and budgets have been cut.”

The bulbs are expected to arrive at Frost Middle School at any time and will be planted in the fall as soon as possible after that, Faraj said.