‘Living wall’ brings new life to Granada schoolhouse

Volunteers from the University of Michigan help build a "living wall" at a small schoolhouse in Granada

Volunteers from the University of Michigan help build a "living wall" at a small schoolhouse in Granada

How do you create a garden in a school whose only outdoor area is a 40′ x 80′ cement courtyard? A “living wall” was the answer that local school students came up with when a visiting Rotaract Club wanted to plant a garden at Margarita Urbina Primary School in Granada.

Fifteen club members came from cold Michigan to Granada the first week in March, wanting to do something useful that would benefit school children here.  The main part of their project was to fix three substandard classrooms. Margarita Urbina school was a colonial house that was donated to the Ministry of Education years ago. The front rooms were in fine condition after being re-roofed by the alcaldia last year, but the classrooms in the back were only 6- feet high, making for some very hot days under a tin roof.

Working hand in hand with La Esperanza Granada the University of Michigan Rotaract Club raised these roofs to 9-feet high and installed ceilings, insulation, and fans. The barely useable classrooms were quickly transformed into rooms with modern comfort — all of which was funded by the club.

But the U.S. volunteers also wanted a project they could work on with the students; and they were passionate about the idea of helping the kids grow a garden. So the local students from sixth grade spent their afternoons working with the club members. Together they drew up designs, visited Catarina to buy all the plants and pots and dirt needed to built supports on the wall, potted the plants, and brought the whole thing together.

“It turned out to be maybe more of a vertical garden, than a living wall,” said Patrick Hayes, leader of the visiting group, but was a tremendous success all the same.

Rotaract Club members also repaired desks, repainted the stage area, and painted the name on the front of the school. Margarita Urbina has never looked better, and the students are much “cooler” now than they were a month ago.

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