Outdoor Learning Thrives at Gearity
Thanks to collaboration among parents, teachers, college students and neighbors, pre-schoolers through fifth graders at Gearity Professional Development School are learning about the environment in tangible and exciting ways. When environmental educator and parent Josh Hunter brought his first child to Gearity, he recognized that the extensive grounds offered the potential for many outdoor learning experiences. Two years ago he helped to organize parents and neighborhood volunteers in creating several raised learning gardens where students sow, care for and harvest vegetables.
Two seasons later, the program has expanded dramatically, thanks in part to a $5,000 grant from Lowe’s Companies Inc. In the fall, Hiram College students joined forces with the Gearity community and neighbors to build additional raised gardens. A split rail fence and arch have defined the space that will include several dwarf fruit trees. A barn-like shed stores child-sized tools. On the other side of the school building, shrubs have been planted and bird and animal feeders are visible from second and third grade windows. In the spring, volunteers will build benches and a small building for observing wildlife.
Teachers also use Gearity’s extensive property for outdoor learning. In addition to incorporating the gardens into lessons, teachers use the instruments of an outdoor weather station. In the fall, students from Hiram College joined Gearity teachers and 50 fourth graders for a walk in the woods on the Gearity campus. Together, they identified tree and fungus species, observed deer and other wildlife, and practiced good stewardship by collecting trash.