By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Elementary students are learning by nature with an outdoor classroom.
The school has a green space that holds a garden as well as a pond.
“We use this area for teaching all subjects,” said second grade teacher Jean Lare, adding that all grades come out to visit the natural environment.
The green space even includes a seating area so children attend class outside. In 2008, Upper Providence Elementary raised money for the school pond with a Harlem Wizards game. That spring with the help of donations and volunteers, a pond was constructed that created a native ecosystem. The natural environment attracts frogs, birds, insects and turtles to the area.
A few years later in 2013, the school partnered with the Triskeles Foundation as part of their Food for All program. The program focuses on healthy growing and healthy eating. Through the partnership, a school garden with eight raised beds was formed.
Lare said the students are taught science lessons with the pond then learn about the simplicity and nutritional aspect of gardening. She said the garden is organic and they use non-chemical means to keep pests away so it’s not harmful to the environment. Lare said the children really like watching the food grow and take what they learn back home with them. “About 90 percent of the planting id done by the kids,” she said.
The students also learn about the importance of charity because every Thursday the harvest is donated to Project Outreach in Royersford, a local food pantry. Several parents sign their children out of school for a short time to take the fresh vegetables and fruit to the pantry.
Debra Miller, a parent volunteer, said the kids are able to actually see the people waiting in line for the food they harvested. She said over the years, hundreds of pounds of food have been donated to Project Outreach with the school garden.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Miller said.
In 2014, a total of 120 pounds of food was donated and so far this year about 150 pounds of over 200 pounds harvested from the garden have been donated, said Kathy Holohan, another parent volunteer.
“This goes to families in need,” she said. “They love it when they see the kids come in.”
Holohan said the whole process of growing the food, picking the food and donating it really teaches the kids some important lessons. Over the summer, she takes her daughter Kamryn to the garden to help maintain it and water the plants.
“It’s fun to harvest and go to the pantry,” said Kamryn Holohan, 7.
Kamryn said planting all the food is really fun and also likes to eat what they grow. She likes the watermelon the best because it’s sweet.
Lare said students plant thought out the year. Garlic is planted outside in the winter time and other seeds are started in the classrooms during cold months. Like the pond, the school garden is made possible through donations and fundraising efforts.
“This is one of my favorite spots to come to at the schools,” said Erin Crew, communications manager for the Spring-Ford Area School District, adding that the natural environment of the pond and garden are very interactive for the students.