Our Lady of Lourdes School in Tujunga is putting the finishing touches on a school garden. The garden is just one of several campus improvements that include renovations of the school buildings, completed over the summer, and the current installation of technology upgrades. The garden has been done through the efforts and donations of Chris Norman, Mr. Chris as the kids call him, who has dedicated numerous hours to create a beautiful and water-efficient garden where there once was just hillside rocks and a few unnoticed plaques.
Mr. Chris came to OLL after he became engaged to third grade teacher Lisa Smith. He took it upon himself to landscape a planter space about 300’ long by about 10’ wide that encircles the playground.
To the natural resources of rocks, along with his own donations, Mr. Chris received mulch, plants, paint and pots from The City, Merithew’s Hardware, OSH, Southland Nursery, parishioners and even neighbors who saw his dedication and hard work. He encouraged kids and parents to donate bags of soil, plants, containers and time to help be a part of the project. Lunchtime and recess found the kids running to help water what Mr. Chris had planted. The students have learned from this project by memorializing loved ones, recycling, giving of their time, and recognizing how old-fashioned hard work can beautify their school.
Along with an assortment of plants and succulents, visitors will see a painted sun with wooden rays, a path of rocks, plaques, a rainbow wall made out of recycled bottles, a shrine to the Virgin Mary, a huge cross made of Tujunga rocks and much more. Some brought cuttings from the gardens of loved ones making the school garden more than just a patch of ground.
As the weeks passed and the day drew near for the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Norman to take their leave, Mr. Chris re-dedicated himself to the tasks at hand. He worked faster and more often on the garden. The feet turned into yards as the garden took shape, becoming more impressive.
His creations were not random. He used color to represent love, Inukshuk markers to represent “coming home.” The Inukshuk is an Eskimo stone marker that guided hunters in their way home, and a tribute to Mr. Chris’ Canadian roots.
Mr. Chris said he wanted to leave something that would “brighten the day for the children, teachers and parents that may spur others to also help the school.” The project was also an opportunity to teach the students to “bloom where they’re planted … and to use their talents to help others.” As he and his new wife prepare to move on, he also wanted children to learn another lesson: “Leave a place better than when you arrived.”
During his last week, a large number of kids came after school to help. They shoveled, raked and hauled mulch bucket by bucket to fill the planter, taking turns to use the tools.
Mr. Chris’ goals and passions will not be forgotten. Parent Michele Miller commented that her boys, Jake and Austin, will always remember Mr. Chris.
“The time someone gives is far more [important] than anything else,” she said.