March 12, 2020

Community Forklift’s Community Building Blocks Program provided an elementary school in DC’s Ward 5 with free materials and gardening supplies for its new educational garden!

Langley Elementary School is a Title 1 School in which 13% of the students are homeless, 59% are considered “at-risk,” and 30% are special education students. Last year, the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) created a large garden at the school that offers students hands-on lessons on growing and preparing food.

We interviewed PTA Vice President Dawn to find out more:

What inspires you about working with Langley Elementary School’s PTA and the school garden?

Langley Elementary School faces the challenge of educating some very needy children and meets it with unyielding love and dedication. Serving on the PTA has been a life-changing experience for me because I’ve learned that, especially in the urban environment, you must build a village – looking out not only for your own children but for all the children and their families. I’m inspired by the other parents and members of the PTA who do this selfless work – which results in real, tangible, meaningful rewards for the whole community.

Rebuilding Langley’s garden has been a wonderful, and at times overwhelming, adventure. Last January, it was an empty mud pit with tons of potential. Now, it’s a gathering space for community events, an open air classroom, a safe place for kids to play, climb, dig, learn and imagine. I can’t think of a more worthy project, because this one gives back tenfold in the forms of learning opportunities, a cool and fragrant respite in the hot, noisy city and of course, nutritious food for the community to enjoy.

How does the Community Forklift grant help you do your work with the school garden?

We raised some money for the garden rebuild, but it certainly didn’t come easy. We spent every last dollar on the essentials – the raised beds, irrigation system, some professional landscaping, a shed. There was no room in the budget for frills. The grant from Community Forklift helped me get some frills. I think the bulk of our grant went to small things – baskets, buckets, basins, a sprinkler, small chalkboards, some tools. These things can really add up, so it was great to go “shopping” at Community Forklift and discover all these items I never knew I needed.

What Community Forklift materials were used in the garden?

Our raised beds are laid out in a beautiful starburst configuration. In the center of the starburst is a green bean teepee that really is the main focal point of the whole space, it being the tallest structure. In the warm months it is totally covered in vining plants and enormous sunflowers. The kids can go inside to cool off in the shade, and snack on some fresh beans while there. I built the teepee out of PVC pipes from Community Forklift. It’s the simplest thing, but makes the biggest impact.

I found a short table and small sink at Community Forklift and they fit together perfectly. I threaded a hose through the sink and we had a hand-washing station!

We found some interesting shelves at Community Forklift that wound up being an excellent place to store the kid-safe shovels.

We also got some doors and cement objects that we are looking forward to finding a purpose for before spring. Most likely, we’ll turn the doors into signage and use the cinder-block-like things for planters.

How do teachers, students, and parents benefit from the garden?

As the person responsible for this project, I can’t describe the joy I’ve experienced seeing it well-used and loved. When the weather is warm, kids walk right in and take off their shoes – which every city dweller knows is the rarest of treats. I once arrived at the garden to find a teacher meditating there during her break. There was a little girl, whose mom swore she’d never eat a vegetable, who picked the beans off the teepee and relished them raw. Parents meet in the garden after pick-up to chat in the relaxing green space while their kids play. It is the ideal setting for the development of the “village,” that I believe is so vital for raising healthy, happy children.


Every time you donate or shop at Community Forklift, you’re helping us lift up local communities through reuse.  We turn the construction waste stream into a resource stream for communities in the DC region – by keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill, preserving historical materials, providing low-cost building supplies, and creating local green jobs.