Windermere Elementary cultivates learning garden

Once complete, the new learning garden at Windermere Elementary will be a place where students can get outside for some hands-on learning.


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  • | 3:26 p.m. January 8, 2017
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WINDERMERE  Instead of being in a classroom with your teacher at the whiteboard, imagine you’re outside learning in a garden as butterflies dance around and plants grow in garden beds around you.

This scenario can be a reality for students at Windermere Elementary School as soon as their learning garden is complete.

“It’s an outdoor classroom where we give the students and teachers an opportunity to have an atypical classroom where they can go outside,” said Amalie Skorman, a Windermere resident whose four kids have attended the school. “It supports the curriculum we already have in place and provides an avenue to study and do classes out there.”

She came up with the idea after getting actively involved in creating a healthier lifestyle for her whole family. Four years ago, she watched a video about the food industry in the country and had flashbacks to when she was growing up and her parents always fed her fresh, homemade meals. It was a wake-up call that maybe fast food and processed food was the culprit for many of the health issues in her family — frequent headaches, stomachaches and food allergies among them. 

"It’s been proven in research that children need to be outdoors more, it’s good for them and it’s another outlet for them to have to learn about sustainability and where food comes from." - Amalie Skorman

“I started buying only fresh and organic food to clean our systems, and I’ve seen in my own family how that changed us,” she said. “I watch my children eat salad and order broccoli at the restaurants and I said, ‘If I can do this with my own kids, why not with the other kids?’ I spent that whole summer researching, and I wrote a proposal for our principal. I met with her and right away she said, ‘Go for it.’ I’ve had the most amazing support from her.”

Since then, she has found another parent, Stephanie Gisler-Rashid, who has been instrumental in helping her bring the learning garden to life. It’s been four years in the making, but with Skorman and Rashid’s hard work, the garden is almost officially complete. 

Starting early next year, teachers can take their classes out to the garden for lessons. If the kids are working on math skills, they can calculate gardening square footage and how far apart seeds need to be planted in order to grow right. If they’re studying Native Americans in social studies, they can use one of the garden beds to grow corn and beans. The garden can serve as a welcome change of scenery for the students and their teachers and help get kids excited about learning.

Additionally, each grade is assigned its own garden bed to plant, cultivate and harvest, which gets the kids excited about growing and tasting their own food.

“It’s been proven in research that children need to be outdoors more, it’s good for them and it’s another outlet for them to have to learn about sustainability and where food comes from,” Skorman said.

What’s more, the garden — a project estimated at about $30,000 — will be built almost entirely of donated materials. Tom West Blueberries in Ocoee is donating blueberry bushes to create a hedge at the entrance to the garden. Home Depot donated some mulch, and in January, the Windermere Tree Board is donating a fruit orchard. Other essentials, such as dirt, an irrigation system, a pergola, benches and even a worm compost, are also all donations. 

“We have been so fortunate because everyone we’ve gone to asking for support has given it to us and more,” Skorman said. “I have been overwhelmed with the support we’ve received from the community and different vendors. Our school has been so supportive, our teachers are so excited and asking when it’ll be ready and when they can grow things. If we can inspire students to look into the food industry and to find some kind of passion in there — whether it’s organic food, hydroponics or becoming a farmer — that’s great.”

 

Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]

 

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