The Seward Elementary Edible Outdoor Classroom is a student-designed edible forest garden and outdoor learning space located on the grounds of Seward Elementary School in Auburn, NY. Initiated in 2015 by Meredith Torrisi’s fifth grade class, the project encompasses the design and implementation of an outdoor learning space where students at all grade levels can connect lessons in science, math, ELA, health and nutrition to hands-on experiences in nature.
During the 2015-16 school year, the class worked with permaculture designers Peter Cramer and Laura Kennedy to research plants, learn the permaculture design process (from site analysis to plant selection) and plant perennial garden beds. The existing beds, planted with around 25 different species and 70 individual plants, surround the outdoor classroom pergola structure (PHASE 2). Some examples of perennial species that were planted during the 2015-16 school year are: Apricot, Serviceberry, Elderberry, Strawberry, Currant, Hardy Kiwi, Grape, Rhubarb, French Sorrel, Egyptian Walking Onion, and Chives.
After spending about 30 hours over the fall and winter learning about and designing the garden space, the class took a spring field trip to a local permaculture nursery to experience first-hand how the plants can work and grow together. While at the nursery, the class purchased the plants needed for their design and then installed the garden the following week. With this they completed PHASE 1 of the Edible Outdoor classroom.
WITH YOUR SUPPORT the class will implement PHASE 2, including the classroom pergola, seating and raised beds in the Spring of 2017:
WHY SHOULD I SUPPORT THIS PROJECT?
We are passionate about the importance of experiential learning, our relationship to the natural world and enriching young minds through this edible outdoor classroom. Your donation will positively impact generations of Seward Elementary students who will grow, observe, taste, smell, touch and learn in this remarkable learning environment.
The main purpose of the structure is to provide a safe, engaging outdoor classroom space for learning at all grade levels. Research shows the remarkable and diverse benefits on learning, cognition, health and emotional well-being for children who spend time outside in nature. A recent study by Stanford University shows how engaging with nature brings about a calming and soothing effect on the brain.
In our fast-paced, screen-driven world, children are spending more time indoors engaging in virtual spaces, which can negatively impact children’s ability to pay attention. According to Yale professor Stephen R. Kellert, engaging with nature positively impacts a child’s emotional, physical and intellectual capabilities. It fosters curiosity, creativity, questioning, and problem solving. Research also shows that children who engage with nature are more likely to have a positive attitude about conservation and preservation of the environment.
WHAT WILL THE FUNDS BE USED FOR?
We already completed PHASE 1 of the Edible Outdoor Classroom in 2016, but WE NEED YOUR HELP to complete PHASE 2.
The anticipated total budget for this project is $8,200. We have already raised $1,825 during the 2015-16 school year to complete PHASE 1. Now we need your help to raise the remaining $6,400 to complete PHASE 2 of this exciting project. Your donation will go toward:
the classroom structure
tree stump seating
a pollinator garden
Be a part of our multi-faceted fundraising campaign and join the Seward school community, local businesses and other supporting organizations to help us complete the Seward Edible Outdoor Classroom this Spring.
WHAT IS AN EDIBLE FOREST GARDEN?
An edible forest garden is consciously designed to mimic the ecosystem of a forest but is planted heavily with food species. In our forest garden, a diversity of plant species work together to perform the various functions of a natural forest, allowing the garden to develop a self-maintaining ecosystem that we can use for years to come as a teaching tool and as a place for students to connect with nature.
Forest Gardening is a gardening system that mimics a natural woodland environment that is self-watering, self-weeding, self-mulching, self-fertilizing and highly productive with little to no maintenance.
WHAT IS PERMACULTURE?
Permaculture is an ethical and ecological design system for creating regenerative human environments. It is an integrated system of ethics, principles and design methods that can be used to create landscapes (as well as buildings and systems) that are modeled and patterned after nature. It is the careful design of beneficial ecological relationships to create an efficient, healthy sustainable whole, with less energy input and more abundant results.