Spotlight on Thomas Page Academy

 

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Thomas Page Academy is excited to be launching the second year of our new “Outdoor Learning Environment” program at our k-8 school in Cotati. We just hired a part-time garden teacher, Krista Lindley who will be working with students twice a week.

Our mission is to provide a rich and inspiring outdoor classroom in which learning comes alive.

Our broad program goals are:

• Students will learn how to grow their own food, fostering healthy food choices for the future
• The Outdoor Learning Environment program will provide opportunities for hands-on activities that reinforce academic subjects in all areas
• The habitat of the Outdoor Learning Environment will connect students to their environment and instill a sense of stewardship and eco-literacy

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Background:

Our project began in a Daily Acts Permaculture course in which myself and Laurel Anderson found ourselves on the same design team and dreaming of a garden program at Thomas Page Academy. With input from students and teachers, the team came up with a viable design which led to funding from School Garden Network and the US Fish& Wildlife’s Schoolyard Habitat Program. With enthusiastic support from parents and teachers, the project broke ground late spring of 2013. The following fall students planted hundreds of California natives to create a 200 foot habitat hedgerow dividing the edible gardens from the playing fields. Second graders, with help from the eighth grade leadership students, planted a butterfly garden. Hummingbird hill was christened and planted at the entrance. Fourth graders learned about cultural uses of plants and planted a basketry and fiber garden. A native grassland was seeded the following spring. Parents built garden boxes which students planted with heirloom beans, potatoes, strawberries and Mayan Blue corn and more. The local Rotary club donated and installed a tool shed.

The Outdoor Learning Environment project has received funding from Lowes’ Outdoor Classroom grant, Cotati’s Cash for Grass program, private donors and from the PTA. The project, like many garden projects, has been a wonderful experience of building community.

It was so exciting to see student reactions this fall when they returned to the garden after the summer. The corn was 10 feet tall! A Monarch butterfly, as though staged, wafted delicately above students’ heads. The butterfly garden was abuzz with native pollinators. Hummingbirds flitted about. There were hundreds of cherry tomatos to harvest and eat and beautiful Tiger Bean seeds to save. Our next steps are to develop grade level educational modules to support classroom integration and to begin to develop a nursery area and simple outdoor kitchen area.

Third Grade Teacher-
Suki Winship (email: suki_winship@crpusd.org)