After more than three years, hundreds of volunteer hours and a check for $10,000 from Arizona Game and Fish, the Discovery Garden at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary opened its doors on Monday, Nov. 1.

The vision for the garden is to give students a quiet and relaxing place to do their work and also to emphasize the importance of just being outside.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place after school on Monday with more than 30 visitors on site to witness the opening. Many of the attendees were volunteers or school site council members who helped in bringing the garden to fruition.

One of those was Marcia Karasek, who, according to Principal Cheryl Greene, was invaluable to the process. Karasek drafted the grant application to the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Program in late 2006 and was awarded the grant in May 2007.

"I had kids that brought me to an idea to create an outdoor learning space," Karasek said. "The grant really gave us ground to stand on and go from there."

The idea for a garden seemed to coincide perfectly with construction going on at Esperanza. As new rooms were being built and finished, the area on the south side of campus, which was being used for portable classrooms, opened up.

"We were really fortuitous because we had plans for a much smaller space originally," Greene said. "It must have been divine intervention because it really worked out so well."

To cover some of the costs, including the pond, Esperanza also started a Brick Fundraiser where families could donate to have their names engraved in bricks along the central walkway.

"We had this idea for the elements within (the garden), like the pond, the sitting areas and natural plants, these things were made possible by contributions from the community," Karasek said. "We tried to keep it really simple."

Phase two of the fundraiser to help raise money for new additions and possibly a community garden in which students can grow vegetables.

On a solemn note, Greene called for a moment of silence for Kristen Sells and Chris Thayer, two residents involved in the development who had passed away. Both have plaques dedicated to them inside the garden.

To find out more about the Discovery Garden or to buy a brick to help support it, visit Kyrene de la Esperanza in person, 14841 S. 41st Place, or contact them by phone, (480) 783-1700.

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