Sunday, September 2, 2012
Botanical Garden lends a helping hand

The Key West Montessori Charter School and the Key West Tropical Forest Botanical Garden recently joined forces to provide child care for families left in the lurch by the delay of the opening day of school.

The charter school was forced to relocate across the street at the May Sands School on United Street due to serious damage to its building discovered days before the first day of school, Aug. 20.

Students' first day of school, because of the move, was pushed back until Aug. 30.

The Botanical Garden, at 5210 College Road, offered access to their grounds and the Nature Chapel for "Camp Montessori."

"When we heard of their need, we could think of no better fit for their program than the Botanical Garden," said Misha McRae, the nonprofit's general manager. "The Montessori staff and children were a great addition to our weekly routine that brought energy and vitality to the garden that only the youth can do."

Montessori Charter School Principal Lynn Barras said that the students enjoyed the week-long impromptu camp.

"Misha and other members of the Key West Botanical Gardens' Staff worked with us to provide a wonderful solution to our families in need," said Barras. "Being able to utilize the beautiful garden and indoor chapel was more than I could have imagined."

The Key West Botanical Garden is the only "frost-free" botanical garden in the U.S.

The nonprofit also offers students from Florida Keys schools hands-on educational programs, through its "Living Laboratory."

McRae said, "Our hopes are that each student found some magic and a love of the garden they will remember throughout their lives. In addition, we look forward to all the students return as part of the garden's Education Program."

Montessori Charter is a free, public school that has 118 students in grades 1-7, according to the school district's enrollment count on Aug. 30.