This is the question that inspired Jeff Wolfson’s 2017 fellowship to Monet’s most famous painting spot – Giverny, France. His goal was to develop with students and community partners a similar artist’s garden as a place for reflection and inspiration at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School in New London, CT.
“My school is situated in a small city where many students lack extended exposure to stimulating natural environments,” explained Jeff. “My classroom, however, has access to a large courtyard that was a blank slate, with a brick patio and minimal plantings. There existed more than adequate potential to create an inspiring student space with gorgeous plantings along with structural additions such as arbors, trellises and student art work.”
After experiencing Monet’s garden and the Museum of Impressionisms outside Paris, Jeff had the basis for an art courtyard design using details from the impressionist art movement. He began the school year by meeting with local garden designers, college arboretum staff and the district’s School Garden and Nutrition Coordinator to develop a planting and instructional plan. Then he introduced his new “Art in the Garden” course to fourth and fifth graders.
Yesterday, the school community officially unveiled the finished product, 356 days after Jeff departed for France on his fellowship.
“Giving students real world problems to solve has immense impact on students’ learning,” said Jeff. “In the process, they created something that will be a permanent feature of their school and something they can return to with pride.”
Congratulations to all of the students, teachers and parents who created this very special outdoor classroom and relaxation space to be enjoyed for decades to come.