Rilee Malloy | Staff Writer

A fence is not the only thing they are building.

The students with special needs are partnering with Lowe’s and eighth grade art teacher John Benham’s classes to make the courtyard a more beautiful place for students to learn and grow.

Lowe’s also came in to help with this project. Special Ed teacher Mark Lynch, and Benham wrote a proposal to the school, and it was approved. Lowe’s helped build and finance the entire project.

“We partnered with Lowe’s here in Mason and they sponsored the whole entire project,” Benham said. “The (students) were able to create two different flower beds, 4×8 and they even did a paver patio around the two flower beds for wheelchair access, and they supplied us with some paint to cover up the fence.”

Benham is one of the leaders of this project. He said that he was excited to make Mason Middle School a better environment for students to be engaged with the school.

“It’ll be a great way to do some learning in a different environment,” Benham said. “It’ll be cool for the students to do some mural painting out there as well, as it will help some other students in a different environment learn about science and math and gardening.”

Special Ed teacher Christina Layton said that she was happy that she could help her students get involved in the community.

“For me particularly, the student population I work with has students with different abilities and disabilities, and they don’t really have opportunities to get involved in the community, or in a community project,” Layton said. “So we wanted to make sure they were all included with people their same age. And for me that’s what I wanted to be able to provide for them.”

Eighth grader Olivia Curry, a student with special needs said she is excited about this project, and is happy that she is able to have something that is a part of her life at home, brought into her school life.

“I’m so happy I’m here, and I really love to garden,” Curry said. “That is my favorite thing at home too. Me and my mom garden, and my dad makes dinner out of the things me and my mom grow.”

Benham also said he has seen some students become more responsible through this project and they are excited to move forward with it.

“Well we haven’t done a whole (lot) other than building, but I can see some sense of responsibility already,” Benham said.  “Several students have already come in and they go outside to check on it see what it looks like and are already asking and excited like, ‘hey when are we gonna get started doing more?’ I can definitely see some responsibility as well as ownership that they’re ready to move forward with the painting.”

Teachers, especially Special Education teacher Todd Castner, were excited for everyone to see their students shine.

“I think (my students) really enjoy doing what they do,” Castner said. “And I think that some of the staff that popped in throughout the day saw a different side of them that they don’t usually see, and saw them in a different light.”

Benham said he is excited to see how the project will turn out, and is excited for this to be more than just a fence.

“I think it’s gonna help everybody understand that we all don’t have the same abilities and maybe working together side by side we can still create something together,” Benham said.