New rock garden added at Suntree Elementary

A new rock garden has been constructed at Suntree Elementary School.

Suntree Elementary School continues to have new features added to its campus, including a new rock garden that has been added at the school.

The garden is roughly 20 by 20 feet and located on the east side of the school.

Bryan Dougherty, chief of operations at Valderrama Orthodontics in Suntree, said the business helped make the garden possible through a donation.

"I was very interested because my three children came to Suntree Elementary," said Natalia Valderrama, owner, orthodontist and dentofacial orthopedist at Valderrama Orthodontics "…. We love this school and I was so excited about the idea…. We made it happen. My staff helped, the team helped and I think it looks beautiful and I’m happy that we did it."

Tracy Seibert, former head of the Suntree Elementary Kindness Club and who recently became an assistant principal at Surfside Elementary School in Satellite Beach, said the garden is meant to inspire.

"The rock garden has a nice little bench in it for kids to sit and look at it. We bordered all the way around," Seibert said. "The Kindness Club plus our sixth-grade students wrote messages on the rocks and painted the rocks so there’s large rocks or stones in there and then there’s smaller rocks that say like ‘be kind,’ ‘have a great day,’ ‘you are awesome,’ ‘smile.’ It’s just all supposed to inspire our students."

Suntree Elementary School Principal Shari Tressler indicated that she hoped the garden would evolve throughout the school year.

"It’s going to be incredible. The plan is for them (students) to paint rocks and they’re going to contribute to the rock garden. So, there’ll be rocks that have kindness messages on them. Over time, we’re hoping, over the year, it will just be a garden full of kindness messages for all of our students," Tressler said.

Seibert noted that the rock garden project was about a year in the making. But, "we didn’t have any resources or money to do that until the Valderrama (Orthodontics) group had come forward for us."

"In conversations with Dr. Tressler, she invited us to show us a garden that they wanted to revamp that was in pretty rough shape. Then, after making some sketches and some drawings and some ideas with the team at Suntree Elementary, we came up with a final design of the rock garden. (It had) a paver pathway made out of red brick that were reclaimed bricks and that led to the project," said Dougherty, Natalia Valderrama’s husband.

The rock garden, along with other recent additions in the form of outdoor classrooms, has school principal Tressler very excited.

"It’s really exciting to have so many new things on campus that we can share with our kids,"  Tressler said. "The rock garden, the outdoor classrooms, it’ll feel brand new to them almost. It’ll feel brand new to our teachers, too. It’s just exciting."