An Outdoor Classroom: Where Lessons Bear Fruit

Nestled under the historic Twin Lights, the staff and families of Highlands Elementary School (HES) have embarked on a gardening adventure. With the arrival of spring, something new has taken root outside the grounds of the school. As you walk from the parking lot to the side entrance of the school, “The Osprey Nest” greets you. The ‘nest’ is made up of seven raised garden boxes that were constructed by parent volunteers, assisted by Pat Guba of NJ Lawn & Gardens.

PTO member and local business owner Nancy Burton, of In the Garden in Highlands, cultivated the idea of an outdoor learning garden. The PTO, the school’s administrators, faculty, and the board of education embraced the concept. On behalf of HES, Mrs. Burton applied for and was awarded $2,000 from Whole Foods School Garden Grant Program under the guidance of Hope Hanlon and Laurie Brekke of www.GoSprouts.org.

The goal of the “Osprey Nest” is to provide a space where students, faculty, and local families can reconnect with nature. At a time when some children and families lose touch with nature and education is focusing more and more on technology, this garden will provide an exciting, hands-on learning experience. The children will incorporate a variety of subjects in raising their crops and then get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

This outdoor classroom is designed to be maintained by volunteers allowing the faculty the benefit of optimizing teaching time with their students. Volunteers, donations and financial support are encouraged and welcome. The goal is to have the project to continue with little to no cost to the HES or the borough. All HES students in grades Pre-K through six will be participating in this project.

To find out more about what’s growing at Highlands Elementary School, please visit the school website www.highlandselementary.org or stop by to see the veggies sprouting at 360 Navesink Avenue, Highlands. Borough residents can register all four-year-olds for the free 2014-2015 Pre-K program by calling the school at (732) 872-1476. You may also visit the Whole Foods website at http://edibleschoolyard.org/node/13603.