Schoolyard Solutions for a More Sustainable World
Intro: Julia Chicoskie
Author: Sarah Geer, Director of Foundation and Individual Relations,
REAL School Gardens
This year’s EarthSmart Outreach program with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is off to a strong start, with hundreds of FedEx team members rolling their sleeves up to support urban conservation and restoration projects. As referenced in the first blog in the series, we would like to showcase one of these EarthSmart Outreach projects, the REAL School Gardens project in Dallas, TX. REAL School Gardens is an educational non-profit that creates learning gardens that grow successful students. 100 FedEx volunteers will help bring one of these special gardens to life on Saturday, April 27. FedEx is proud to collaborate with REAL School Gardens because we feel it represents the best of what EarthSmart Outreach can do – inspire community members in cities large and small to take action. It is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest blogger, Sarah Geer from REAL School Gardens. As Director of Foundation and Individual Relations, Sarah manages key relationships with funding partners and supporters. Prior to joining the REAL School Gardens team, Sarah worked on environmental policy issues at Resources for the Future in Washington, DC. Sarah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Economics from Oberlin College and a Master’s of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
Meet Xcarleth and Lezli…
These young students are part of a generation that spends on average more than seven hours a day looking at screens, that has limited access to urban green space and that recognizes far more cartoon characters than common species of plants and animals. And yet these girls have a strong vision for how to transform their schoolyard into a vibrant learning garden teeming with wildlife.
Our job at REAL School Gardens is to help bring Xcarleth and Lezli’s vision to life. Back in January, the girls presented their designs to more than 100 teachers and community members at a “Design and Dine” event, one of the first steps in our three-year partnership with their school, Dr. Barbara Jordan Elementary, to create a sustainable outdoor classroom. REAL School Gardens staff helped the group develop a common vision for their learning garden, and on April 27 we will work alongside FedEx volunteers and community members to translate these ideas from the page to the schoolyard.
Every REAL school garden is a useful teaching tool to help students achieve in Science, Math and Language Arts, all while learning more about the environment and their important role in sustainability. So, expanding on Xcarleth’s idea of a garden bed dedicated to strawberries, we will help students build a water-conserving drip irrigation system for the strawberry bed and train teachers on lesson plans about the water cycle and basic engineering principles. Lezli’s idea for a large flower bed will become a hub for native perennials and ecologically critical pollinators as well as a hub for learning about the different parts of plants, insect lifecycles and the math lessons hidden in seed production like multiplication and pattern recognition.
As part of FedEx’s EarthSmart initiative, REAL School Gardens received a grant to support conservation features in the garden at Dr. Barbara Jordan Elementary School and in 17 other gardens in North Texas. While the features have tangible environmental benefits such as increasing biodiversity and conserving water, they also make a significant impact on the hearts and minds of the students at each school. Students learning in a REAL school garden are more engaged in their lessons, and our partner schools have seen 12%-15% increases in test scores, especially in Science. Research also shows that early experiences in nature are a strong predictor of pro-environmental behavior as adults and that such experiences have important positive effects on children’s health and well-being.
So, when looking for solutions to some of our most pressing urban environmental challenges – and to some of the serious challenges facing our children – a great place to start is in our schoolyards. In addition to building the infrastructure for a sustainable outdoor classroom, we can lay the ground work to help kids like Xcarleth and Lezli become lifelong environmental stewards. We look forward to getting started with the FedEx community at Dr. Barbara Jordan Elementary on April 27th!
For more information about how to partner with REAL School Gardens, check out this overview.