February 15, 2017
High school students in the spotlight
A Canada’s birthday-themed display stood out from the stunning student gardens at Congress, because it was conceived and built by high school students. The team from Niagara Catholic District School Board represented a collaboration between the Green Industries and Construction Technology programs.

Instructor Darren Schmahl was especially pleased by the cooperative effort, since it mirrored real-world situations. “I am very proud, the project was a big success,” he said. Schmahl was pleased that students participated based on a range of abilities; some even helped by gathering Phragmites grass for the display.

Schmahl noted his students got a late start with the opportunity. Brainstorming began in October, when the students decided on the 150th anniversary theme. The result incorporated Canadian icons, from a flag and beaver, to a native bee hotel and a dugout canoe.

Schmahl was apprehensive when his students settled on the canoe idea, but went along. City crews dropped off a 36-in. diameter log on Nov. 10; Schmahl did some of the initial rough work with a chainsaw, but other than that, “The students did it.”

Design, planning and cooperation was one part of the student experience, according to Schmahl, and another was their exposure to the landscape profession through Congress. All the Niagara students visited Congress on the Wednesday of the show, and he said, “They were blown away, they couldn’t even believe it. Congress really opened their eyes.”

Darren Schmahl says his goal with students is to expose them to opportunity and get them interested; the garden was a great experience toward that end.