To help celebrate our school partners’ many accomplishments though recent challenges, this month, we’re asking staff at our partner schools to share some of the things that make their school so special Thank you to all of the teachers, administrators, and support personnel who’ve written in to lift up your school teams! Great work!
Today, Anne Santana is helping Out Teach celebrate North Hi Mount Elementary in Fort Worth with this Q&A.
Share some of your favorite outdoor learning memories.
As I walk through the halls, I am often stopped by students wondering when they were going to get into the garden once again–love those interactions. There is a sweet little first grader who has asked multiple times, “Do you have my sunflower seeds yet?” During our first session with students in January, they brainstormed what they would like to see in our garden and he chose sunflower. I’m so excited to see his ownership of that idea and can’t wait to plant a sunflower bed after spring break with him and other sunflower enthusiasts.
Our program only started up a few weeks ago, after a lengthy shut-down due to COVID and a lack of dedicated staff. My favorite memory so far is planting a winter bed with a class of Pre-K students. I so enjoyed planning how to make that process effective and organized for both them and for me! They should choose between carrots, radishes or sweet peas and each had a chance to plant their seeds. While waiting for their turn, students dug in nearby beds to find weeds and worms. They were so excited to use real tools (gloves and hand shovels) and see how tiny some seeds were.
What are some unique ways you have been able to engage your students during COVID-19?
We are very fortunate to have a large number of raised beds (at least 20) at school so that we are able to have students work in these beds while maintaining social distancing. During cold wintery days, we have focused on indoor projects: making birdseed cookies, examining onion plants for parts and functions and planning how to correct overgrown raised beds.
What was the biggest ‘aha’ moment using the outdoors that you witnessed on your campus?
I am new to the campus and to teaching gardening to students in an ongoing project, so there are many aha moments for me. One that stands out to me is the excitement students have about our garden. Most have only met me once and been outside once thus far in 2021 and yet, I am constantly stopped to ask if the seeds are here, when we will plant outside, do we have bluebonnets… and a myriad other questions. They are even interested in gardening over lunch! One day I covered in the lunchroom and noticed all the compostable food the kids were not eating. I brought a bucket to lunch and we almost l led it with goodies for our compost pile! Older students remembered that the school had an active composting and food sharing program prior to the pandemic that was incredibly successful. That program had a lasting impact on their understanding of food.
What are some of the other awesome things that are happening at your school?
I’m particularly In our large school garden, we have 7 4×4 foot beds that have been overrun with Bermuda grass due toCOVID-19 related closures. Additionally, the areas surrounding the beds are full of weeds and bed placement makes it difficult for our custodian to maintain the area. We have asked our4th and 5thstudents to help us x this problem. They have researched different methods to refurbish these beds and areas surrounding the bed and have voted on the “best” and the “easiest” methods. I was so impressed with their conversations during this activity and the willingness of many of the students to do the “hard” work of getting rid of the Bermuda grass prior to replanting in their beds. Our next steps in early March is clean out the beds and begin to lay out different covers at the bottom the beds to test which is most effective.