Notre Dame College School Courtyard and Outdoor Classroom Project
Our vision was to create an outdoor classroom area that will be utilized by all of our staff and students, with a focus especially upon our science programming. We want all students and staff to enjoy our outdoor spaces. We wanted students and staff to appreciate nature, and especially the native species and butterfly/hummingbird attracting plants.
Our vision was to create a more vibrant and inclusive outdoor courtyard space. With the assistance and coordination of students and staff from construction, culinary, special education and more, we wanted to create a courtyard space that allows more students to be included in gardening. Specifically, raised garden beds were created for ease of use by our special education students and all of the other garden beds and pots that were planted can now be used by our students. This garden space will teach students about gardening, growing herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Students will be involved from the digging and planting, to watering and maintenance, and finally to harvesting and eating.
As part of the projects, we selected to improve two areas of our school. The first area was our outdoor classroom and for this area we ended up installing a garden of potted plants to be used by our science students and appreciated by all staff and students who use the area. The potted plants included those for a butterfly/hummingbird focus and a native species focus. We also planted two large pots with Boston Ivy, and we hope the ivy will grow over our existing pergola to add beauty and shade.
The second area was our courtyard. For the courtyard, we focused on garden beds, raised garden beds, benches, and a garden of potted plants. The raised garden beds and benches were built by our construction students. The benches will be used by all staff and students who use the courtyard (they were initially intended for the outdoor classroom but we opted to keep them for the courtyard). The plants for the raised garden beds and garden pots will be used and maintained by both our special education students and culinary classes (as both of these classrooms open out to the courtyard). The students will help to maintain a variety of plants including snap peas, zucchini, cucumber, kale, rosemary, strawberries, various types of tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, jalapenos, basil, peppermint, chocolate mint, thyme, oregano, parsley, and the flowers planted in our upcycled skid project. It is our hope that the culinary students will be able to harvest the herbs and vegetables to then be used for various recipes. The upcycled skid project was an addition, as we did not end up needing to use the grant money to pay for the wood used for the benches and raised garden beds. The skid was planted with flowers creating a rainbow effect and will be painted by one of our art students at a later date.
This project brought together so many staff and students. We had students from classes assist with the outdoor classroom (including science, history, and religion classes). We also had our culinary students help with the planting of the gardens in the courtyard. Our chefs were very helpful with both deciding which vegetables should be planted and with the actual planting. Our Educational Assistants were also helpful with the planting in the courtyard gardens. We had construction students who built benches and the raised planter boxes.
Reflection & Celebration
This project was so amazing to complete. We had students and staff come together to improve our outdoor classroom and to create a new vibrant courtyard space. Students were so happy to get outside and to work with their hands. Many expressed how they had never gardened before and learned so much. Staff enjoyed creating a space that will be appreciated, but also used and that connects directly to their curriculum. I personally was thrilled to have students learning new skills, to create something inclusive for our special needs students, and to work closely with my colleagues. A celebration occurred on our planting days, as the culinary students were treated with time to eat the ice cream and pizzas that were prepared by the culinary classes. I hope to have more of a celebration during harvest time. Lastly, the achievements were celebrated via our school’s Instagram account and this allowed the entire school and school community to see photos of all that we accomplished.
Check us out on Instagram!