Photo by Benjamin Hager

Catherine Southwick retired from teaching after 37 years, but one project brought her back to Kramer Elementary. The school has launched an effort to rebuild its learning garden, which has fallen into disrepair due to budget cuts. Principal Menay Harris recruited Southwick as the part-time garden coach.

“We’re trying to become a green school,” Southwick says. “We’ve raised enough money to start the garden, but it’s going to take a lot more.”

That’s because there’s a much bigger vision behind this one. The new garden will include about 15 to 18 4-by-20 concrete block beds. It also will feature a greenhouse, a chicken coop, rainwater barrels and a nature trail. To fund the project, Kramer has applied for corporate grants, including the Clorox Power a Bright Future Program grant for $25,000-$50,000, which uses an online voting system. The schools with the most votes receive a grant.

“If everyone in Dallas voted once, we could probably win it,” says Lisa Gewax, the Kramer PTA garden coordinator. In addition, the company chooses its favorite among the schools that did not receive enough votes, and Kramer already has been noted as a “Clorox pick.”

The garden will supplement curriculum in every class from earth science to literature.

“With herbs, students can learn about using descriptive words to describe the senses,” Southwick says. “In math, it can teach them how to calculate area and perimeter.” Students can take their lessons beyond the eco-classroom, she says. “I’m trying to help them understand where food comes from — it’s not just the grocery store — and why it’s important to eat healthy.”

The Clorox Power a Bright Future campaign ends Dec. 9. To view Kramer’s profile and cast your vote, visit, click on “the nominees” and search for Kramer Elementary. You also can vote by texting clorox7889 to 44144 once a day every day.

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