By Dave Ongie
There’s a spot behind the University School building that caught Caleb Strickler’s attention the moment he first set foot on campus as a seventh-grader.
The HVAC units behind the office didn’t suit Strickler’s eye at all, and he made a mental note that something should be done to beautify that area of campus. Four years later, as Strickler prepared to embark upon his Eagle Scout Service Project, he saw an opportunity to remedy the situation.
“The Eagle Scout project is supposed to help the community and benefit it for years to come,” Strickler said. “Since they have some raised bed gardens in the back, and I knew some of the younger students like to plant vegetables, I wanted to expand on that idea to make it bigger and better for them.”
Dr. Troy Knechtel, the director of University School, was on board immediately.
“He said if something could be put there to hide (the HVAC units), and also, when people came to the office, they’d have somewhere to go sit and relax, that would be great,” Strickler said.
So after consulting elementary school teachers at University School, Strickler decided to build an educational garden in that space stocked with plants that are native to the area. In addition to providing an educational opportunity for the students, the garden will be scenic for visitors as they enter the office.
“(The teachers) said the native plant idea was a good idea because in some of the curriculum for the younger kids, they’re supposed to learn what’s in Tennessee – the plants, the wildlife, the flora and the fauna,” Strickler said. “I thought since that’s in the curriculum anyway, it would be great if they could be involved in learning.
“Their teachers can teach them about the plants in the area, and they can become involved in nature. Since technology is so prevalent, I kind of wanted to get the kids outside to enjoy what’s around them.”
Enjoying the great outdoors is what drew Strickler to the Boy Scouts in the first place. He started out as a Tiger Cub at the age of 6 and quickly gravitated toward hiking. Despite changing schools prior to seventh grade, scouting has allowed him to form strong friendships with the kids who started in his pack back in elementary school.
As Strickler looks to complete his project, he is relying on donations from the community to make his educational garden a reality.
“When an Eagle Scout project is completed, everything has to be donated in some way,” Strickler said. “I can’t put any of my own money in or any of my relatives. All the money that is going to be raised is going to go back into the project.”
Those who donate to the project will be able to put their name or a short message onto a plaque, which will then be fixed to a large stone in the center of the garden.
“Everyone who donates becomes a part of the project,” Strickler said. “It shows that the community was truly a part of it.”
For more information on the project or to receive instructions on how to make a donation, email Caleb Strickler at: firstname.lastname@example.org.