FREMONT -- When the creators of the new Ardenwood Elementary School garden started work on it last fall, they had a "build-it-and-they-will-come" vision.
They wanted to attract local birds and insects, and they did. What they didn't expect were the many¿ students, parents and community volunteers who flocked to the north Fremont campus to help nurse the fledgling garden to maturity.
"The synergy for how different people came together for this garden is amazing," said Paula Rugg, the K-6 school's principal
The 1,500-square-foot garden, which broke ground in October and opened last week, was the brainchild of fourth-grade teacher Jerry Loisel and Tia Glagolev, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ranger at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont.
At Glagolev's urging, the school planted vegetation and flowers native to the Bay Area. The garden now boasts the California poppy, fuchsia, toyon, primrose, yarrow and many other plants, Loisel said.
They planned for the garden to sit on the Pacific Flyway, a natural migratory path for birds that stretches from Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America. Now, countless types of birds, including hummingbirds, different kinds of sparrows and yellow warblers make the garden their temporary home, feasting on native plants while taking a break on their long seasonal journeys, Loisel said.
"This is one way we can help animals here in our community, and we can make the kids aware of that," he said.
Loisel leads Ardenwood's Go Green Club, a squad of students who help tend the garden.
Cathy Bloom-Gregory, Ardenwood's sixth-grade instructor, said some of her students have started experimenting. They've begun studying the garden's moisture content, for example, by comparing its soil now to when it was just a forlorn patch of weeds six months ago. They're learning other lessons, too, such as the value of teamwork and sweat.
"Hard work sometimes is required to help your school," Bloom-Gregory said. "That has to be taught -- kids just don't naturally do that."
Loisel said he was amazed by the outpouring of community help. About $5,000 in resources was donated. Bloom-Gregory's husband, Jerry Gregory, rototilled the site. The Ardenwood PTA started a compost program and donated mulch and picnic tables. StopWaste.Org donated money and gardening materials to the school, Loisel said.
Allana Chin, a sixth-grade student and member of the school's Go Green Club, said it was a "really big day" when the garden officially opened last week.
"There used to be nothing here a couple of years ago, and now it's kind of a rest stop for birds going from where it's cold to where it's warm," said Allana, 12. "We want our school to be environmentally friendly."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.