‘Secret Garden’ art project nearly complete at St. Amant High

Staff reports
Shown from left St. Amant High School art teacher Darryl Babin shows the “Secret Garden Classroom” project to Mike Cohen, senior vice-president and general manager of BASF’s Geismar site. The project, which is expected to be completed in May, is partially being paid for through a BASF Corporate Endowment grant that was provided through the Ascension Fund.

GEISMAR – Students at St. Amant High School have nearly finished converting a forgotten alley into an outdoor courtyard classroom, due in part to a BASF Corporate Endowment grant provided through the Ascension Fund.

The ongoing project – “The Secret Garden Classroom” – has been in the works for nearly two years,” said St. Amant art teacher Darryl Babin, who came up with the idea for the courtyard. 

During the project, students have helped with tasks that include designing the layout, clearing debris from the alley, removing weeds and building a wooden arbor. The long, narrow space has been outfitted with a fountain, pottery and a wrought iron gate, and will feature plants and aluminum patio furniture when complete.

While the garden is named after the classic novel penned by Francis Hodgson Burnett, it is fashioned after a traditional New Orleans courtyard, said Babin, who discovered the space while proctoring a standardized test. He expects the project to be finished by May 2009.

“We’re truly grateful to BASF and the Ascension Fund for helping my classes put together something from which many current and future students are sure to benefit,” said Babin. “This courtyard is going to be a great place for teachers to hold outdoor classes, for student clubs to meet, and to reward students with pizza parties. This has been a terrific way for our students to take ownership in a project that requires planning, strategy and teamwork.”

The BASF Corporate Endowment grant was among 46 grants of up to $2,500 each awarded to teachers and schools at the Ascension Fund’s annual awards ceremony in August. Each year, the Ascension Fund names three of its Corporate Endowment grants in honor of BASF. The objective of the fund is to achieve academic excellence in Ascension Parish public schools.

“Each year, we are impressed by the innovative projects that are funded by our BASF Corporate Endowment grants,” said Mike Cohen, Senior Vice President and General Manager of BASF’s Geismar site. “This creative project is teaching students important traditional values, such as hard work and teamwork, which are two things that will help make our community better.”

Since its creation, the Ascension Fund has provided more than $1 million in grants directly to classroom teachers or schools in Ascension Parish. BASF, a charter member of the Ascension Fund, is the largest contributor to the fund’s Corporate Endowment Program. The company has donated more than $75,000. BASF employees have also worked countless hours as volunteers for the program.