Raised beds of collard greens, kale, and pomegranate trees sit parallel to herb beds blooming with mint and rosemary. Located a few feet away are the flower beds, looking a bit the worse for wear, but bright spots of pink and red sedums still peek out defiantly. “It doesn’t look perfect,” says Catherine McGuinn, “but it doesn’t need to be.”
Since founding the Charleston Horticultural Society’s Mobile Gardeners program in 2011, McGuinn has brought her expertise (she has her masters in horticultural therapy) to workshops in Hampton Park, the Church Creek Nursery, and Brittlebank Park. Most recently though, McGuinn has devoted her free time a few Fridays a month to the PACE program at Pattinson Academy. Located off of Bees Ferry Rd. Pattinson’s Academy for Comprehensive Education is a magnet school for children with “profound special needs.” McGuinn — who has used her degree working with juvenile offenders in Blacksburg Va., and students in a transitional school in Durham, N.C. — says that her goal with the PACE outdoor classroom is to make sure the teachers know how to interact with the plants and the kids in such a way that the garden gets used, no matter how much tearing, pulling, or displacing of plants this may take.
The small garden space, filled with the aforementioned veggies, herbs, and flowers, is a boon for both the students and the teachers. “We love using the outdoor classroom,” says teaching assistant Nicole Kaeser, “It’s great for the students because it’s all sensory encompassing. We try and go out there almost every day.”
PACE’s outdoor classroom was started in 2014 by The Council of Garden Clubs of Greater Charleston and The Exchange Club of Charleston; its official name is Lane’s Outdoor Classroom in honor of one of the charter school’s students to pass away. “It’s a really sentimental place for the teachers, too” says Kaeser. The garden’s raised beds are at levels conducive to assisting the students with their specific…