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Planting Appreciation for the Environment

Teacher Assist garden projects grow understanding of nature and climate.

Even through there is snow on the ground, these students and their teacher are planning for butterfly visitors this summer.

There's still snow on the ground in upstate New York.

But 4th grade teacher Jessica Monaco and her students are excitedly thinking about summer. By then, the expansion of the outdoor education space at Royalton-Hartland Elementary will be buzzing.

The school district and local businesses seeded progress in the initial garden space. Now the $2,500 Teacher Assist grant Jessica won is making it possible to fast-track plans for its expansion.

Soon there will be a new pollinator garden complete with houses and nurseries for butterflies. Students will watch things grow and learn about plant life cycles. Trail cams will allow them to see what birds and animals visit the gardens. Students and their families will be able to pick fruit from the raspberry and blueberry bushes that will be planted.

Hands-on, student-centered learning opportunities will be bountiful. An outdoor weather station will help them understand climate and the environment. They will learn problem-solving and engineering skills through the construction of a water wall. Water will be gathered in rain barrels and solar panels will power the pumps to operate it and provide lessons in renewable resources.There will also be composting stations to further teach about sustainability.

The outdoor area is also handicapped-accessible. New raised garden beds will give all students a hands-on, play-based education.

“Students will be able to take risks and test out their thinking,” Jessica said. “They can get dirty, 'make a mess,' get wet and learn all at the same time.”

A herd of elephants lined up ready for water duty at the Shadowlawn Elementary School garden. Oh wait, those are watering cans!

In Naples, Florida, the sweet peas are already blooming.

The sunflowers, peppers, tomatoes and watermelons the students planted have sprouted. Birds have laid eggs. And a herd of elephants are lined up ready for water duty. Oh wait, those are watering cans!

Laura Pacter hopes her students never forget the leadership lessons they will learn in the garden at Shadowlawn Elementary. Her Teacher Assist grant is being used to revitalize an existing garden impacted by storms and hurricanes.

The project will make it a totally outdoor learning space featuring tables at each end with 24 reading chairs. Students and their teacher will be able to sit and read together 6 feet apart, socially distanced in the fresh air.

“Additionally, the newest editions of Leader in Me books will help students learn about leaders who made a difference,” Laura said. “The books will help them find their voice to lead others and be proactive in improving the garden.”

These and other garden projects funded through Teacher Assist will help students sow seeds for a lifetime of learning.


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