Top of the World Elementary School’s Outdoor Classroom/Garden gives students hands-on experience learning about their environment through a variety of instructional activities and about the importance of their role as stewards of the earth. The 10,000 square foot space is home to a variety of citrus fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables, and also includes an array of colorful flowers, seedlings, and composting stations.
Principal Ron La Motte said that the outdoor classroom underlines the school’s “whole child” approach to education. “Our students learn the value of hard work as they till the soil, plant the seeds, and pull the weeds to ensure a hearty harvest,” he said, adding that the students learn another valuable lesson by turning their lunchtime leftovers into nutritional mulch for their crops. “For many students, this is the only experience they have ever had growing their own food,” said La Motte.
Retired TOW teacher Terry Hustwick is the after school outdoor classroom coordinator, and her sister, Mary Porter, assists in teaching students about horticulture and nutrition as students grow and harvest a variety of plants. Hustwick enjoys the chance to watch the students embrace their interaction with nature. Seeing their thrill in feeding the compost worms and their delight in creating a salad out of their own harvest “is priceless,” she said, adding that the experience “has opened their eyes to the importance of caring and having ownership in a product that will be shared with others. The garden responsibility is taken seriously and the children are proud of their accomplishments.”