Imagine a gray schoolyard paved with asphalt being transformed into a flourishing ecosystem; with footpaths meandering from bursts of native flora to vegetable patches teeming with in-season crops.
Education Outside is an organization that strives to incorporate environmental enlightenment into school curricula; doing so by transforming traditional schoolyards into green havens where kids can help build a sustainable ecosystem.
Based in San Francisco, Education Outside has sprouted green classrooms in the schoolyards of dozens of schools in the San Francisco area. In addition, they provide environmentally concerned curricula and training for teachers. In these natural sanctuaries, students not only learn but are able to experience first-hand the relationships between native food sources and nutrition, ecology, habitats and biology, geology and climate change.
Most outside classrooms contain a water feature, such as a pond, organically grown gardens, accessible pathways, seating for different group sizes, and a multiple, varied habitats. Within each classroom are both a native plant garden, with flowers chosen to appeal to local fauna, and a food-system garden, where students can participate in growing crops and observe the relationship between agriculture, weather, and astronomy. After crops are harvested, students can take pride in knowing they helped to grow the fresh fruits and vegetables that now sit on their lunch plates. Should they not clear their plates, they can always compost the scraps.
Solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems are also common fixtures, instilling the values of water conservation, along with the intrigue of exploring renewable energy sources.
All is maintained by the students, their parents, the teachers, and other participating members of the community. In addition the the efforts of the primary educators, part-time teachers and aids are employed to assist in teaching eco-literacy.
Teaching assistants may come from the Corps for Education Outside, a program that enables college graduates to play a role in enlightening children about the environment and the current challenges we must overcome to sustain it, including climate change and biodiversity loss. But above all, to encourage the enthusiasm of kids as they develop the skills needed to attain self sufficiency and the consciousness to understand their impact on the environment.
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