As of April 26th, Seatack Elementary School’s much anticipated outdoor garden space is complete. This impactful project was born out of collaboration between the creative mind of Virginia Beach native, artist, and entrepreneur, Pharrell Williams and Seatack Elementary students as part of the 2019 Something In the Water Festival. The garden plan emerged in hopes to develop a worthwhile project that would effect the students of today and into the future. Support for the project came from Pharrell as well as other generous donors like Timberland and Virginia Natural Gas. This project resonated with us at WPL and we worked diligently and eagerly to bring the visions of the students to fruition.
Why It Is Important to Us
WPL President and Landscape Architect, Billy Almond is a lifelong Virginia Beach resident. As a child, his mother had him weed the backyard and mow the lawn as soon as he wall tall enough to reach the handles. For a while he detested these chores, but he soon learned the value in caring for the outdoors. Paul Willis, a Virginia Beach Deacon in the Seatack area, also doubled as Billy’s family handyman, gardener, and landscape extraordinaire. He kindly took to teaching Billy the basics of gardening, how to hold a shovel, identifying various plant names and uses, and why to respect the land. He was Billy’s first real role model and inspired in him what was to become a lifelong passion. From then on he was infatuated with plants, the natural world, and it eventually festered into a career in landscape architecture.
When Billy heard about the potential project at Seatack Elementary, he immediately reflected on his time with Mr. Willis. He knew that this was his chance to provide an avenue for these kids to learn the important lessons that Mr. Willis bestowed in him. Billy and the rest of us at WPL are ecstatic to inspire possible future designers, landscapers, surveyors, gardeners, farmers, landscape architects, and more through this garden project.
What We Do
WPL worked hand in hand with Pharrell and Seatack Elementary students to develop a master plan that could best represent the visions they had and bring the most benefit. We hosted a design charrette to allow the students to voice what they wanted for the garden, and transform it into real, concrete plans.
The design plan includes 30 new raised beds, 4 of which are ADA accessible, edible tree species, pollinator shrubs, an arbor gateway, compost bins, new greenhouse and cold frames, a gathering circle, an outdoor classroom, and multiple pieces of artwork. We surveyed the area, developed a carefully plotted procedure and created a master plan. We also developed detailed and lifelike renderings showing what the finished product would look like upon construction. We were honored to work on a project like this and put our all into making sure it turned out just right for the students of Seatack Elementary and the community alike.
The finished project is everything we could have hoped for and the pride in the students involved says it all. The planters are full and teeming with vegetables that the school can use in the cafeteria. Students also have the benefit of taking home the produce they grow to their families. It inspires responsibility for the earth, healthy eating habits, teamwork, and other lessons that are invaluable. We are so thankful to have been involved in this wonderful project and can’t wait to see it flourish for years to come.
WPL will continue the work of enhancing communities through future garden design projects such as John B Dey Elementary school where we are developing a master plan for a new school garden. This garden will include raised planting beds, compost stations, edible fruit trees, and a potential greenhouse.
WPL eagerly looks forward to future garden design projects as the momentum is steadily building. WPL will be on the forefront of leading this charge to ensure our communities are only getting stronger and more closely knit.