Courtyard Crew Makes Difference Around Town

Back in the summer of 2009, twenty volunteers from Home Depot’s northern Indiana territory donated their time and expertise to bring Johnston’s Outdoor Science Lab from pipe dream to reality.  Parent and teacher volunteers were involved as well as the PTO.  Renovations to the courtyard included a greenhouse, a composter, planting materials, themed gardens, a hands-on learning lab, seating, and beautiful aesthetic improvements to make the courtyard functional as a community center.  The formal dedication took place in the fall of 2009.  Since then, academic application of the program has begun for classes in grades 2-4 and a volunteer student group (known as the “Courtyard Crew”) has been meeting regularly and making a difference at Johnston and in a number of places in town.

Lea Ann Kerber is the coordinator of both of the aforementioned and the driving force behind the creation of the project AND she does all of this on a volunteer basis when she is not working as a Title 1 paraprofessional at Johnston or as Landscape Coordinator in the town of Highland.

Plans are still on the table to move the program towards a model that is self-supporting including a small apple orchard, cherry trees, and a pumpkin patch.  In fact, the project from has gathered national attention along the way.

“At the beginning of the year we were contacted by Home Depot and notified that our project was submitted to represent Home Depot at the national level,” Kerber explained, “and in May we were selected as the top project out of 980 stores from Minnesota to Texas and east to New York.”  The award brings with it an $8,000 check which will be invested in the program.

The focus at Johnston remains on the community and well being of the students and families.  “This is something we are very proud of,” Principal Kevin Trezak stated, “and we want to continue to move forward.  Lea Ann is a tireless individual who is concerned with what is best for our kids and our community.”

Rhonda Szymanski’s honors art class in the high school was involved early on in coming up with murals to accent the courtyard walls.  Those murals were finished and installed this past spring. 

“Its a project that has involved many individuals,” Kerber said, “and we hope that each successive year, students, staff, and community  will continue to move the project forward.”

If you would like to get involved with the wonderful things that are happening at Johnston Elementary School, contact Lea Ann Kerber or Kevin Trezak at 923-2428.