Love Blooms Best at Evergreen Park Elementary’s ‘Tiger Sanctuary’
A peace garden on the edge of campus at Evergreen Park Elementary School in Brooklyn Center used to be neglected and overgrown.
As an avid gardener, the neglect bothered teacher Tanya Novak.
“Things were dying out. Things were barren,” remembers Novak. “I always like to make a place look better.”
So last fall, she embarked on a quest to clean up the garden at Evergreen Park Elementary.
“I’ve been here for so many years and we’ve never done anything to beautify the school. I thought, it’s time. If I can leave a legacy for my kids, it’s in the garden,” said Novak.
She got to work and like many teachers when it comes to supplies, she opened up her own pocketbook.
“I had the stimulus checks come and I thought I can live without these. It’s money I wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Novak. “So I applied the stimulus checks and I had a very small inheritance from an aunt and I thought she’d be tickled pink to know I used it for this.”
Novak used the money to purchase a variety of plants for the garden, which she hopes will resonate with many families who live in apartment complexes. The students also live in an area not far from the Brooklyn Center police station, which became ground zero for protests after the death of Daunte Wright.
“Many kids live in apartment complexes and don’t have gardens,” said Novak. “I want them to know the names of these flowers and how beautiful they can be and the peace they can bring.”
Besides the new plants, you can also find tiger figurines throughout the garden. Tigers are the school’s mascot and one of the inspirations for the garden.
“Something just clicked. I thought ‘Tiger Sanctuary,’ a sanctuary for our kids who are the tigers,” said Novak.
Seeing the Tiger Sanctuary at Back to School
“Thinking about our kids who are coming to school this year, over half of our school, our Kindergarten, First and Second grade have not had a full year in school yet in their school careers,” said Denise Schnabel, principal. “So, being able to add that to their experience is just super exciting.”
The space might be used for a nature walk or even a place where students can sing outdoors.
Novak says it’s been a tough year to revive a garden. Because of the drought, there’s even more of an effort to keep plants growing.
But she persists in watering and caring for the plants. Many flowers may be past peak when students first see the Tiger Sanctuary in September, but hopefully they will see that love is what blooms here.
“To see the time and effort that Tanya has put in, she’s put so many of her own flowers, she’s put so much of her own money into this,” said Schnabel. “And I think that just speaks to the many staff here who love and care and do anything for the kids who enter through our doors.”