Gateway Michael Carver Garden: Edward Scruggs, Oliver Tindle, and Rosemarie Schelling

Gateway Michael Elementary has always had a school garden but in recent years, it has taken on more importance. Edward Scruggs, Oliver Tindle, and Rosemarie Schelling are three teachers that have been vital in the success of the school garden.

When Edward Scruggs started at Gateway in 2000, the school had a small garden that was mostly led by teachers and PTA members.  Over time, those responsible for the garden retired and weed overtook many of the beds. In the spring of 2013, Edward Scruggs decided to bring the garden back to life. With the help of a group of volunteers, he spent the next few months digging out the weeds, planting new crops, and – because there was no irrigation system – hand-watering the entire garden himself.

He soon recruited Rosemarie Schelling and Oliver Tindle to help with garden maintenance, since they were both avid home gardeners. Rosemarie Schelling had started garden beds at Gateway Michael over 20 years ago and was eager to start the garden back up.  Mr. Tindle describes the revitalization of the garden as a “catalyst for change” and it brought new energy to the school. The garden inspired the entire staff to start a faculty exercise program to encourage each other to stay active. This enthusiasm spread throughout the building and in 2018, Gateway Michael received the Silver Award for America’s Healthiest Schools! President Bill Clinton praised Gateway Elementary and Gateway Michael as “one of the healthiest schools I have ever seen,” during his visit to the school in 2017.

Gateway Michael is a unique St. Louis Public School that serves students with severe deficits in cognitive, motor, and speech areas. In 2017, Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities (HSHC), an initiative funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, helped make the garden space more accessible for students. They installed double-high raised beds and a wheelchair accessible pathway around many of the garden beds.

Scruggs, Tindle, and Schelling have found ways to incorporate the garden into special education, like having the students use hand shovels to move soil and directly observing weather patterns. In addition to being an outdoor classroom, Oliver Tindle says “The garden provides peace of mind and physical expression for the staff and students.”   The garden allows the students to feel responsible for something while being supported in a safe space. Rosemarie Schelling proudly shares that during a MAP test this past winter, one of her students was able to make a connection to something they had learned while being in the garden.

When asked about the garden, Edward Scruggs enjoys telling the story of giving a group of students a packet of cucumber seeds. One student was so excited because he knew pickles came from cucumbers from his time in the garden. Though he no longer has to hand water the garden, Edward Scruggs often spends hours working in the garden each afternoon. His initial goal “to make the garden look good” has grown into something much more. Scruggs wants to continue expanding the garden and dreams about growing enough for parents and community members to take the produce home. 


By Rachel Wilson, Education Americorps VISTA

Adams Elementary Spotlight: Albert Sanders and Connie Myers

Albert Sanders teaches preschool and the Saturday morning classes at Adams Elementary. In partnership with Connie Myers, from Washington University, Albert leads the school garden, Sun Patch Garden at Adams. This past summer, Albert was selected as one of the Missouri Regional Teachers of the Year for 2018-2019. They work with the students, volunteers, and community to create a space that everyone enjoys, utilizes, and are proud to be a part of.

The Sun Patch Garden has a variety of annual and perennial vegetable, flower, and fruit beds. The Saturday School at Adams – led by Albert and Connie – includes “Rooted in STEM” classes, where students are able to make scientific connections to the garden. This past spring, the students built a geodesic dome greenhouse to start seedlings. The greenhouse looks like a much smaller version of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron!  The greenhouse extends the growing season into the winter, so they can grow more produce for the school and community.  


In addition to Saturday School lessons, the garden is used as an outdoor classroom by Albert and other teachers at Adam’s Elementary.  Albert’s preschoolers help out with the planting and celebrated Halloween with a Pumpkin Patch Hunt (check out the garden’s Facebook page to see the adorable photos!). Throughout the year, Adam’s teachers have access to produce from a tower garden and are encouraged to incorporate it into the classroom.  Parents of Adam’s Elementary students are also welcome to the produce.

With the help of Adam’s teachers and a team of Washington University volunteers (and of course, Albert and Connie), the Sun Patch Garden is maintained throughout the summer and school year. They hold monthly work days on Saturdays (even in the winter!) that are open to the public and gardeners of all levels. They recently set up a rain barrel irrigation system to make summer maintenance easier – Albert shared how to install a rain barrel irrigation at the Gateway Greening Community Agriculture Conference this past February!


Albert’s favorite memory in the garden is the first harvest of lettuce with the Rooted in STEM students. They grew lettuce, carrots, and radishes and had a salad party!  Connie enjoys seeing the students’ smiles and a sense of accomplishment as plants grow and are harvested throughout the year.  Connie says, “It inspires me to see the students share what they have learned with other students and proudly show their friends and parents, explaining in great detail what they have done in the garden.”

Albert and Connie’s collaboration and teamwork is undoubtedly a huge part of their success. Both are passionate about working with the students in the garden and making an impact in their community. They do acknowledge the need for “support from the administration and staff, and for them to believe in the importance of the school garden.” Perhaps, what the Sun Patch Garden can teach other school gardeners is that in order to have a thriving garden, the most important thing you need is a strong foundation!

To learn more about Albert, Connie, and what’s happening at the Sun Patch Garden, visit their website or Facebook page!