Merriman Park Elementary is one of the few schools in town with a certified Master Gardner on staff – Sheridan Stringer – and she’s also the coordinator of the school’s Outdoor Learning Center, funded in large part by parent donations. Even with all her training, Stringer’s not afraid to get a little dirty, and the students love helping her work the garden.

On a recent hot Sunday, Stringer had more than 30 students and parents helping her pull weeds, work the compost pile, lay fresh mulch and water new plants, all in anticipation of new growth in the fall.

Stringer uses the OLC to teach lessons on everything from conservation of natural resources to the life cycle of the butterfly, but she says her favorite take-away is the value of hard work. MPE’s OLC has earned the Certified Wildlife Habitat designation through the National Wildlife Federation.

“Every gardener’s dream is having so many enthusiastic gardeners working alongside for a common goal,” she said. “I loved the sweaty faces and dirty hands of our students as they were digging and hauling…what a great community spirit.”

In 2009, Stringer earned the WFAA Eco-Educator Award for her work. Congratulations, Mrs. Stringer and good work, Panthers!