School:  Forest Grove Elementary, Sterling

Project Title:  Watershed “Where does ‘IT’ go”

Ashana O’Connell and Dawn Johnson wanted their fourth-grade students to learn more about what watershed they belong to and how trash can affect it.  During this interdisciplinary project, students designed and built tools using a 3D printer for picking up trash around the storm drain near at their school.  They used thesetools to help clean up a local storm drain area.  Students also created a “Save the Watershed” video game to help increase watershed awareness.  They had fun gaining points in the game if they cleaned up the watershed area, and would lose lives if you destroyed any area in the watershed.  Their goal is to continue the watershed cleanup effort around the school on an ongoing basis.  The collaboration between students and faculty was so successful, they will be presenting at Loudoun Inspire, which is a meeting of teachers in Loudoun to share best practices in teaching with technology.

School: Lovettsville Elementary, Lovettsville 

Project Title: Lovettsville Elementary School Garden Rain Barrel System

Hugh Brockway and the staff and students at Lovettsville Elementary have been taking care of a thriving garden located on the school grounds, which was funded by Loudoun Soil and Water two years ago.  The students and staff recognized a need to capture and conserve rain water for this amazing garden. The garden area is located where there are no down spouts and surrounded by flat roofing.  To remedy this problem, Mr. Brockway and his students, along with fellow staff members, collaborated and designed a structure that collects rain water and funnels it into rain barrels.  Students will be doing data assessments to determine the amount of water saved and collected as the project continues. 

School:  Blue Ridge Middle School, Purcellville

Project Title: Can we improve our schoolyard environment by creating an inviting habitat for tree swallows and blue birds?

The 285 sixth grade science students at Blue Ridge Middle School (BRMS) built, decorated and installed 30 bluebird and tree swallow nesting boxes. The nesting boxes are placed along the perimeter of BRMS, which is located in Purcellville, VA. Students observed nesting behaviors via a web cam binoculars and spotting scope as the birds feed their young.

School:  Park View High School, Sterling

Project Title:  Multiculture, Vermiculture, Agriculture: An Organic & Eco-Friendly Learning Space

A report from the school….

This project has far exceeded our expectations for the first year! We received generous funding from numerous organizations, and skilled volunteers who taught us about nutrition and how to construct raised garden beds, plant crops, build a bee hotel, make straw bale planters, and set up worm bins. We have used three different hydroponic planting systems and a growing table for seedlings in the classroom, and four composters and four rain barrels outside for nutrients and irrigation. No pesticides or non-organic fertilizers have been used.

Besides our Special Needs program students, ELL newcomers, and Environmental Science students, even more of our Park View student population became involved in establishing the garden in response to our request for help with mulching, building, planting, and other chores. Our Self-Contained ID classes were involved from the beginning in composting and planting. Environmental Science students researched and reported on companion plants, straw bale planters, pH needs, soil testing, and vermiculture. They also began the hydroponic gardens in the classroom and started seedlings early for transplanting.

Student volunteers from the PEER club worked with our special needs students; US Government classes came out during SOL’s for community service; athletic teams and others in weight training came after school to shovel and spread mulch; and students in In-School Restriction spread mulch, and built and filled additional raised beds for our pollinators. Art and Marketing students did promo ads, posters, and tweets; they named our garden the “Patriot Patch.”

This summer, students in Camp REAL have come to thin, harvest, weed, and finish mulching the garden. Twenty 5th through 8th graders from our cluster schools participated, familiarizing them with the garden that they may later be working in as high schoolers!

Throughout it all, students learned not only about gardening, but transferable academic and life skills as well: planning, measuring, using tools, working together as teams, good nutrition, plant development and needs, cleaning and prepping vegetables for cooking and eating, composting, eco-friendly practices, etc.

Our garden consists of ten raised beds: seven planted with vegetables and herbs; one sensory bed with plants having unusual textures (lamb’s ear), sounds (sea oats), colors/shapes (purple basil, Siberian iris, day lilies, dracaena), scents (scented geraniums – lemon and citronella, chocolate mint, herbs), taste (strawberries, mint, basil, other herbs); and two beds with beautiful flowering nectar plants for the pollinators. We are on our second vegetable planting, having harvested greens (spinach, kale, lettuce, chard), peas, radishes, carrots, beets, and onions. Our second planting is growing several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and green beans, plus continued cultivation of herbs and strawberries. We also have seasoned and planted 10 straw bales along the fence with different vines: squash, cucumbers, gourds, and pumpkins, and have several large pots with flowers, large herbs, and blueberries.

We have given our harvested vegetables to our Gourmet Foods class for their end of semester dinner, to some of our students and their families, to school employees, and to our cafeteria. We have served fresh salads from the garden during our Monday “Lunch Bunch” and our ribbon cutting. We’re looking forward to lots of summer tomatoes and peppers, plus the straw bale vegetables in the fall.