Thursday, January 17, 2013

Connecting to Nature

Willing thumbs, no experience needed.

Connecting students with the natural world all around them is one of Spring Branch ISD’s goals in educating young people for the future. Adult volunteers are needed at one SBISD elementary school to inspire and to connect students with garden dirt and green plants, insects and birds.

At Thornwood Elementary School, 14400 Fern, students and staff learned how important nature can be when volunteers at St. Thomas Presbyterian Church designed and then installed a school garden overflowing with hardy native plants that attract beneficial insects and birds.

Dedicated St. Thomas volunteers have maintained the area garden, doing Saturday upkeep with occasional help from volunteers like local Cub scouts. In the past year, the school’s garden was registered officially as a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) certified schoolyard habitat, a big recognition.

In order to be certified, the garden had to meet all of the requirements for classification as a natural habitat, including food, water, shelter and a place to raise the young. Now, new and additional volunteers are needed to work with and supplement St. Thomas’ volunteers.

“As a group of adults, our volunteers first saw the garden as an opportunity to rekindle a lost relationship between children and the natural world. The youth of today are the key to the future of tomorrow and, therefore, they must understand how important our environment is,” says Allyn Dukes, one of the St. Thomas volunteers who created the school garden.

The garden habitat serves a student population that includes children who live in apartments, not homes with yards. Many lower-income families at the school are also highly mobile.

Thornwood Principal Lynn Austin reports that students adore visiting the garden during planned science lessons.

Science teachers have incorporated activities such as bird watching, identifying plants, and examining insects into their lesson plans to create an interactive experience. In kindergarten, students have visited the school garden with personal magnifying glasses and report back on what they observed. Many teachers now take their school photographs in the garden.

“For some students, this may be the first permanent plant and vegetation establishment that some students have had the chance to interact with,” volunteer Dukes says. “While the sponsors at St. Thomas Presbyterian have thoroughly enjoyed planning and creating a wonderful addition to Thornwood, we are striving to build a larger community ownership so that other volunteers will come and help with garden upkeep.”

Communications Dept. intern Kali Venable compiled this report.


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