Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, BrightView Install Gardens as Place to Learn, Reflect, and Heal
Reflective tranquility garden features 17 stones symbolizing lives lost
Before the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students were working to create an outdoor learning space, but the ground was not well-graded and students weren’t able to maintain the area.
The tragic events of Feb. 14 shocked the entire Parkland community, including BrightView Business Developer Michael Lashbrook, who grew up in the area.
“It hit close to home – one of my good family friends was there,” he said. "After it happened, we all felt terrible. I was just trying to think of ways that I could help. Knowing that BrightView has the capabilities, I reached out to my friend to find out what we could do.”
Within a week, BrightView connected with the school and after several conversations the decision was made to focus on the outdoor learning space.
“It was a place where we could make a more immediate impact,” Lashbrook said.
The area wasn’t quite finished, but already contained several hand-crafted elements created by the students, including raised planter beds, a hydroponic garden, a telescope observatory, and solar-powered electric panels.
“Initially, we came with the idea of creating a physical memorial garden for them, but the more we became involved with the students, we all came to the conclusion that what was most important was for them to just have a community gathering space,” said Bryan Walters, BrightView Account Manager. “This was a way to bring the students and faculty together to finish a project they had already been working on and to create a space they can use to reflect and move forward.”
It also became apparent that the school wanted to keep the structures that were already in place and the foundation of what they had created.
BrightView agreed to re-grade the entire garden and existing walkways, add additional paver walkways, create and install a Florida-native educational garden and butterfly garden, and design a reflective tranquility garden as a healing space for students and teachers.
The project kicked off April 14. BrightView team members were joined by more than 20 faculty and students to take part in the installation. Everything used that day was donated by BrightView’s suppliers.
A key piece of the area was the reflective and tranquility garden. The garden has colorful plant material and a water feature in the center. Lining the pathway are 17 glazed, solid granite stones to symbolize the 17 students and faculty who lost their lives on that tragic day.
“The weight and mass of the stones were selected to represent the solidarity of unwavering placement of their lives in the community,” Walters said. “After everything was said and done, this became more than just a student project, but a day of healing, laughter, and fun for everyone. This entire project was our way to help the community and be there for our neighbors.”
On May 16, a dedication ceremony was held at the school as a way to thank everyone who was involved with the project.
“Every single day, I have students come up to me and express their appreciation of the garden area,” said Brandon Kyle Jeter, science teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. “Nothing makes me feel more fulfilled than seeing entire classes utilizing the space. I firmly believe that use of the reflection area is going to become incredibly important moving forward.”
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