Pansy Day at Curtis Elementary, a day when every student plants a pansy or bulb, is a day of beautifying the school grounds for the winter and early spring. Last Wednesday was a cool but sunny morning. Each grade filed out of the classroom either with their pansy or picking up one purchased for a small fee from the PTA. Bulbs were furnished for students who did not bring a pansy or turn in the PTA form to purchase one at school. Shovels from the first Pansy Day 23 years ago were picked up one by one. With shovel and plant in hand, each ran to a planting bed, scraped, scooped, and dug, then gently placed and covered the soil around its roots. For those needing a little guidance, parent volunteers were available to give instruction.
In all, 515 pansies were planted along with three or four dozen tulip and daffodil bulbs.
The PTA used the special planting day as a day to honor the founder of Pansy Day, Brenda Bush, office manager at Curtis. She has been in the school’s office for 30 years and she has been the cheerleader to keep the tradition each year from the start. Bush is retiring this school year.
During the brief ceremony, PTA president Whitney Kunkle presented Bush with a lavender T-shirt reading “Pansy Day Founder” and a plaque in her honor for the entrance garden.
“Pansy Day was started when the school beautification committee was formed,” Bush said. “Glen Dewire was the principal, and he was really the one to suggest it.”
According to the Curtis Yearbook, the committee formed during the 1994-95 school year. “Beautification started with the front courtyard area, which is now where the new Office Complex currently sits,” Bush confirmed in an e-mail. “The committee consisted of both Curtis staff members and parents who loved the idea of making our school grounds beautiful. Back then, the committee members, along with their families, came on the weekends and planted a row of Bradford pear trees and created two flower gardens.”
Bush said after the presentation that when she began working at the school in 1987, the grounds were in rough shape.
“I used to bring my lawn mower to school, and along with the custodian, [I] would mow the grass. That was before Parks and Recreation took over,” she said. “A lot of parents would come on the weekends to help beautify the grounds.
“Our PTA has continued the tradition since then by helping coordinate volunteers to come to Curtis and help students with the planting. The Parks and Recreation Department took over the maintenance of all school grounds, and they have been a wonderful help in keeping our grounds looking beautiful. From this beginning, the idea was formed that the students could also participate during the school day by bringing in pansies or a spring bulb to plant in the flower beds. That is how Pansy Day got started.
“I honestly think that Curtis has one of the prettiest school grounds in the county,” she said. “It has help kids to understand [beautifying their surroundings] and to take more pride in planting, and I have watched it grow.”
Retiring bittersweet for Bush. “I am kind of sad. This is my second home,” she said. “Everything that goes on during the school day, I think this is the last time I will see it, but I am excited, too. This [Pansy Day] is what I am most proud of. I hope they keep doing it.”