Outdoor Classroom for our Green Ribbon School

The Problem

The grant money we are hoping to acquire will be used for an expansion of the outdoor garden area at Thaddeus Stevens Elementary. The groups involved with educating and assisting our students with all aspects of planting, maintaining and harvesting the garden include: Penn State Extension Office/Harvest 4 Health Program, local Franklin County Master Gardeners, Kids Learning After School (KLAS) Program, administrative, grounds and teaching staff. The garden was initiated in April of 2011. After being recognized last March and June as a PA State and National Green Ribbon School, the school received a monetary award from the state. The teachers at the school presented ideas for how to use the money on an environmental project. They decided they wanted to expand on the garden area by adding an outdoor classroom/pavilion near the garden. We are seeking additional monies to help defray the costs of the pavilion we plan to build in the spring of 2013. Please refer to this web blog post to get details about the garden project used by the KLAS students after school and summers: http://franklincountymgs.blogspot.com/2011/09/harvest-4-health.html

Plan of Action

The year round Kids Learning After School Program works with the garden. Going forward, school day classroom teachers plan to get involved with the garden as well. Over the first year of usage, seeds and plants ranging from strawberries, herbs, root crops, summer squash and cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes, cabbage, parsley, cauliflower, zucchini, radishes, beans and carrots, and marigolds were grown. The vegetable plants were donated by local Master Gardener starts, excess trial garden starts and historic gardening efforts at the Renfrew Institute’s Four Square Garden Project. Master Gardeners were on hand to help plant and give gardening tips along the way each week. A fence had to be erected to fight off the nibbling groundhogs! The students had harvest days and taste- tested the crops that they collected. Teachers plan to go outside to hold environmental science classes or reading/writing sessions near the garden in the outdoor pavilion we plan to construct. We have obtained estimates and are holding onto the money awarded for Steven’s State Green Ribbon School Award to put towards the outdoor classroom area. CASD Food Service Supervisor would gladly work with the school to implement use of the garden crop for after school snacks or even incorporate the produce in the school menu. Our district follows the ChooseMyPlate.gov healthy eating plan in its cafeterias.

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