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Legends and Legacies, Wildflowers and Wildlife

Woodway Elementary is “Growing!”

WACO, Texas- Katie, a third grader at Woodway Elementary, never thought that her love for beauty in nature could ever coincide with her love for school. Her passion for making things beautiful ignited after she read Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, a fictional story of a woman who made the world more beautiful by planting in the wild.

  This spring the Midway ISD Education Foundation staff and supporters gathered to dedicate the new “Story Walk” garden to the district’s elementary children at Woodway. The garden is an interactive outdoor play and learn element designed to harness the student’s natural need for movement while facilitating a more intellectually and socially engaging learning experience.

Within the garden is the native flora and fauna of the Piney Woods Region of Texas, as well as the role nature played in the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson. The Story Walk consists of multiple short stories about Texas wildflowers and the former first lady’s perseverance and heart for service.

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Story Walk prompts inspire Ethan Christian and Katie Baird to delve into their books.

“Since beginning my job teaching art, I’ve grown to appreciate how art can figuratively weave so many disciplines together to form a cohesive concept,” stated Sarah McCormick, the primary project coordinator and assistant art teacher at Woodway Elementary. 

3.Front Row: Katie Baird and Ethan Christian; Back Row: (left to right) Caleb Boles, MHS Art Teacher; Suzi Pagel, Education Foundation Executive Director; George Kazanas, Midway ISD Superintendent; Aaron Pen*a, Woodway Elementary Principal; Jeff Gasaway, MHS Principal; Sarah McCormick, Woodway Elementary Art Assistant.

Front Row: Katie Baird and Ethan Christian; Back Row: (left to right) Caleb Boles, MHS Art Teacher; Suzi Pagel, Education Foundation Executive Director; George Kazanas, Midway ISD Superintendent; Aaron Pen*a, Woodway Elementary Principal; Jeff Gasaway, MHS Principal; Sarah McCormick, Woodway Elementary Art Assistant.

Depending on their grade, a student may determine different character traits of Lady Bird Johnson, discover specific plant features, or learn how legends and myths originate in everyday life.

Alligator sculptures add a unique east Texas flair to the garden. Once the habitats were installed, the Midway HS art club gave up a Saturday to paint flowers along the sides of the boxes while the elementary students stamped bright red lady bugs on the flowers. Somewhere in between, paintings of mystical fairies appeared along the walls of the display as well.  

Katie Baird and Ethan Christian.

Katie Baird and Ethan Christian.

The goal of the Story Walk garden program is to foster growth in the academic, social, spiritual, and physical development of the students. Through hands-on lessons in the schoolyard, students explore the connections between themselves, their environment, historical figures, and hopefully the larger world.

“My hope for the future of the garden is to see the space used to facilitate a commitment to hands-on, interactive learning,” McCormick explained. Because Woodway Elementary teachers are going to be challenged to have “worksheet-free Wednesdays” next year, the garden will be a perfect alternative.

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Katie Baird.

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The students look on during the garden walk dedication.