One staple of the fall season in Oklahoma is pumpkin patch outings for families and classrooms. One such venue is found at the Oklahoma City Myriad Botanical Gardens. OG&E Energy Corporation’s fourth annual Pumpkinville is found in the Children’s Garden and unique to the display are woodwork projects produced by Moore Norman Technology Center’s Carpentry students.
Children’s Garden Manager Kerry Rapp said, "We were initially looking for a partner we could work with who had great carpentry skills, access to a variety of tools and who could assist us with recommendations on the best way to construct our various projects.
"Many times I’ve gone to (MNTC Carpentry Instructor) Mark Estell with just an image or idea of what we would like the students to make and he has been excellent in offering design and technical details and then executing the projects so that the final result is exactly what we need."
Myriad Botanical Gardens Volunteer Coordinator Toni Lee first contacted Estell in 2014 to help with cedar planter boxes for the Spring Festival. It was an effort to bring the book "The Secret Garden" to life by filling six large boxes that had trellises with roses and vines.
Estell said the Myriad Gardens connected with him again this August to see about getting a few projects constructed for an October display called Pumpkinville.
“My students had fun with the ideas behind each project and are proud to have their work out there for families and kids to enjoy. The other great thing about this partnership is that the Myriad Gardens have so many events throughout the year that each of my students has an opportunity to work on one of these specialty projects,” said Estell.
Estell said he meets with Rapp about the scope of the various projects she needs and then he teaches his students to develop blueprints and a material and cost list. Once agreed upon with Rapp, students begin work.
“This is just about the best way for my first-year students to get their hands on real projects immediately after entering the program. They get to quickly learn how to use the tools, drills, sanders and the circular saw and jigsaw. These are tools they’ll use throughout the whole program, so it’s a perfect introduction for them,” said Estell.
He said if any of the project requests are more advanced, he puts his second-year students to work on them. He also said his students get to see the final results of their hard work, as they're are allowed entrance into the display areas after it’s opened to the public.
"Our partnership has been tremendous and is mutually beneficial for both of our organizations. Mark has always been so enthusiastic and willing to help and keeps me informed of how these unique projects help his students gain knowledge and skills. I also share with him the impact that these projects have on the Children’s Garden or other parts of Myriad Gardens," said Rapp.
To date, MNTC's Carpentry classes have constructed six cedar planters with trellises for "The Secret Garden" during the spring festival 2014, a Strawberry Tower, a barn door with cupola for the "Charlotte's Web" spring festival 2015 each for for the Children's Garden; a Gingerbread House for the 2014-15 Christmas display and seven vertical planter frames for the 2015 Orchid Show, both in the Crystal Bridge Conservatory. For the 2014 Pumpkinville display Estell's students built display shelves for pumpkins and this year they built a pumpkin bean bag toss, a pumpkin stand, a wagon, chalkboards for the schoolhouse, pumpkin posts and smelling boxes.
“The craftsmanship has been excellent. We have given the students some difficult projects, such as the strawberry tower, yet quality of the tower was outstanding and it was a favorite of visitors to the Children’s Garden; they often asked who made it and showed interest in making one for their own home.
"The strawberry tower is used for growing strawberries, but also is designed to get visitors thinking about how to garden vertically. So, the contributions of the MNTC carpentry students go far beyond the construction of a project and can often translate into educational opportunities for visitors," said Rapp.
To learn more about the Myriad Botanical Gardens Children’s Garden visit oklahomacitybotanicalgardens.com. For more information about MNTC’s Carpentry or other full-or-part-time classes visit mntc.edu or call 405-364-5763, ext. 7260.
by Anna Aguilar, APR