The Search for Usefulness

What should happen to the school’s “Japanese Garden?”

In the corner of Palmer, there is a small outdoor patch of greenery. It’s enclosed by four brick walls with windows that are almost always closed surrounding it; the green doors that connect it to the school’s hallways are locked around the clock. Though it has no ethnic elements, it is widely called the Japanese Garden. Some have tried to climb into the garden from the windows while others settle for looking from the hallways. The school administration has decided to repurpose the so-called Japanese Garden–but what would be an effective use of the space?

Historically, the garden has seen several attempts at revival. Different school groups have tried to clean up the space, raise herbs, or use it for science projects, but each attempt has fallen flat over time without proper maintenance. While a vegetable garden or science project could be fun and educational in the short-term, there is little that can grow in the shaded space, especially when upkeep becomes a problem over summer vacation. One possible use is a new indoor space, used for gym classes, art classes, or any other educational purpose, though the cost to build one would almost definitely not be worth the benefits. The garden is earthy and isolated–besides, the small area isn’t worth a large investment when there are more essential programs to spend money on. The best option will be something that requires little to no work once the initial effort has been put in. It should also be something that student or faculty members can make use of–the currently locked doors make the garden little more than a pretty patch to look at.

In recent years, the student body and administration have pushed relaxation and meditation as effective breaks from real life. Gym classes have had units in meditation and walking, and students have been encouraged to practice mindfulness–the skill of being present and aware of what’s happening. The Tiger’s Den is a good space for this, but it isn’t open every period and it’s indoors. Renovating the Japanese Garden into a similarly purposed outdoor relaxation facility could be very beneficial for students; all the current outdoor areas are on major roadways, or littered with gym classes and parked cars. With a couple of benches and open doors, the Japanese Garden could become a great place to spend a free period decompressing, as long as the relaxing students aren’t distracting to the classes being held in the surrounding classrooms. It’s cozy and relatively isolated, and the plant life already present in the garden makes it a pleasant-looking place to spend some time sketching, working on homework, or just taking a few minutes to breathe.

These are all possibilities that a combined student-teacher committee are considering. As groups of committee members decide on a function they want, they will consult experts and design plans to ensure the result is effective. The Japanese Garden is a long way from being declared a finished product. When it is, it should be open, sustainable, and beneficial to the student body and school.

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