High Point Elementary School's Reading Garden is blooming with more plants and amenities, thanks to a $1,000 Conservation Fund Mini-Grant from the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District.

Gahanna City Councilman Jamie Leeseberg applied for a grant on behalf of the school, after receiving an email at the city about the grant's availability.

Leeseberg, who has two children attending High Point, said he looked into the grant to see what kind of projects were eligible and asked Principal Kathleen Erhard if she would mind if he applied on High Point's behalf.

She approved.

Now advancement and enhancement are underway at the garden, Erhard said.

"It looks beautiful and is well-planned out," she said. "All children get to enjoy the Reading Garden throughout the year."

She said the school is blessed with an active parent community that listens to student voices.

"The children really wanted more color and to benefit the butterflies," Erhard said.

"So a butterfly garden is being installed and developed. It will be gorgeous and welcoming to nature and the children," she said.

Leeseberg said he prepared the application and cost estimate with the help of the staff at Gahanna's Ohio Herb Education Center.

"I saw an article saying Gahanna was a pollinator city, and from my time with the CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) I know what a great attraction the Herb Center is. So I thought putting those two things together in an educational program made sense," he said.

The school at 700 Venetian Way learned March 14 it would receive the grant, which covers plant materials for herb and pollinator gardens and educational signs.

Leeseberg said volunteers from the PTA and grounds committee worked to prep the site, and much of the work was completed May 13, Herb Day.

The grant application cited a desire to enhance the existing outdoor education area by providing additional habitat and educational opportunities, and adding an area to read and enjoy nature while connecting to the community.

The project enhances the habitat by providing pollinator plants, trees for nesting and seeds and fruit for birds and animals.

The application notes native and flowering plants will be included to attract butterflies and birds.

The space also will provide educational opportunities for students in grades K-5, with signs that will identify plant and animal species possibly to be found in the area.

Visits to the area can be incorporated into lesson plans, including worksheets identifying the plants and/or animals and their roles in nature, Leeseberg said.

Gahanna was declared the Herb Capital of Ohio in 1972.

The project will incorporate herbs and the Ohio Herb Education Center will be used as a resource for educational material. Students will be encouraged to visit and take classes to learn more about the benefits and various uses of herbs in everyday life, according to Leeseberg.

The Gahanna Convention and Visitors Bureau also has been made aware of the project and will help promote it to the public.

Visitors come to Gahanna to enjoy the Herbal Trail, Leeseberg said, and this project will be one more example of how native plants can be used to improve the world by providing food, shelter and beauty for animals and people.

The school already had the land for the project. The labor was and will continue to be done by volunteers from the PTA and the community.