Meet Christina Horbinski: Learning Gardener

Christina Horbinski

Meet Christina Horbinski, SRB Learning Gardener

Spring has sprung and the SRB Learning Garden that was dedicated back in August to the retiring Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is full of new growth and young students!

School parent Christina Horbinski has stepped into the role of head gardener for the space, after playing a role in the massive clean up and planning efforts involved in getting it up and running along with other key players including James Ouper, Kim Nigro, and Giovanni Benincasa.

“When I first heard about the fundraising and planning efforts for the garden, I decided I had to get involved.”

Christina offered to help with plant selection, a job she is well suited for. She has taken the required coursework and is now currently interning with the Chicago Botanic Gardens as part of a Master Gardener program. This certification is more than just a fancy title. It has an educational component, making the SRB Learning Garden a perfect vehicle for passing on her knowledge to the next generation.

This first year, the Learning Garden was used mainly by the preschool, pre-k and kindergarten classes.

“Many of the kindergarten students now call me “Mrs. Gardener.”

Christina developed several half-hour lesson plans that are age appropriate and designed to teach kids hands on about plants and our ecosystem.

“Another play space is great, but how can you call it a learning garden if kids aren’t learning? I’m excited to work with whatever grade level is interested in coming out.”

Possible topics are endless and support what the teachers are covering in the classroom.

“There is so much we can do. For example, the older kids can learn about genetics of plants, hybrids and cross-pollination. Younger kids can cover the changes in the seasons. In October, we talked about how plants prepare for winter. In March, we talked about what they are doing to wake up.”

She has given the garden a theme “Pollinator Power” since most of the plants in the garden were selected for their ability to attract “pollinators.” For those of us who haven’t been in a science class in awhile, those are bugs and birds that help fertilize other plants, such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

“The younger kids especially love to learn and look for bugs and butterflies.”

Like any other subject covered in school, Christina urges parents to continue the lessons learned in the SRB Learning Garden at home.

“Ask your children about what they have learned and set aside space to grow things at home.”

She hopes students walk away from the Learning Garden realizing it’s more than just a pretty play space.

“I want to teach them how to love and appreciate nature, but also what it takes to enhance it. So when they walk by a park or a nice garden, they can notice things like ‘Wow, that flower will be good for bees’ or ‘That area could use some compost.’ It’s more than just something pretty to look at. They should understand what goes into it. Just like domesticated animals, domesticated plants need human intervention to thrive. We have an obligation to take care of it.”

Christina welcomes parents to come by and check out the Learning Garden for themselves.

“If the gate is unlocked and you spot a woman with a big, floppy hat on, that’s me! The garden is open. Come take a look. You might learn something new.”