An outdoor classroom is becoming a reality for students and teachers at College Hill Fundamental Academy (CHFA) thanks to grants from the United States Forestry Service and Whole Foods.
To celebrate the occasion and the new chapter for the school and College Hill community, student ambassadors and representatives from local partners gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, May 4.
The event included a tour of the four spaces tentatively scheduled to be part of the learning space and a “shark tank” presentation from students in grades four through six. During the tours, Dr. Joanne Rebbeck from the US Forestry Service and Sandy Sumerfield from CHFA provided more details about each space and had students participate in learning experiences such as checking the ground
temperature or air temperature and installing rain gauges.
The new space will be completed in four phases, according to Monica Battle, principal at CHFA. The phases include planning, development of prairie and peace gardens, a playscape area with natural materials, and an outdoor classroom. The peace garden folds into the school’s trauma-informed approach to teaching , supported by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“The goal is to have students involved in every step of the process, from planning and building to maintaining the gardens through a project-based learning framework,” said Battle.
In one of those projects, students will have the opportunity to consult with local garden experts to research the unique needs of urban gardens, including: optimum location, bed structures, soil quality, water/nutrient needs of plants, organic pest control, composting, and ongoing maintenance of a school/community garden.
The groundbreaking coincided with Better World Day, a national event sponsored by CHFA’s innovation reform partner, EL Education. Better World Day honors the power of students across the country to shape a more just future through their learning. EL Education is a national nonprofit that works with schools across the country to deepen student engagement and is rooted in social justice, equity and service.
During remarks to the guests at the groundbreaking ceremony, Caitlin McKenzie from EL Education said, “kids are doing incredible, smart things to better the future.”
Keep up with the outdoor learning space developments and other fun happenings at College Hill Fundamental Academy at collegehillacademy.cps-k12.org.