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Learning Through Gardens: Outdoor Learning Labs at Aspen Academy

  • Health and Wellness
Aspen Academy Contributor

This summer, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, recognized Aspen Academy for creating a Certified Schoolyard Habitat® through its Garden for Wildlife program. Aspen Academy has joined with over 5,000 schools nationwide that have transformed their schoolyards into thriving wildlife habitats that provides essential elements needed by all wildlife – natural food sources, clean water, cover and places to raise young. The habitat also serves as an outdoor education site where students can engage in cross-curricular learning in a hands-on way. 

“We are thrilled to have outdoor learning labs where our students can grow, learn, and lead as citizens who understand the importance of what we can learn from nature,” said Kristina Scala, Founder & Head of School. “The years I spent growing up on a large walnut and plum orchard in northern California inspired an appreciation for good dirt, insects, plants, and trees that I’m grateful to see coming to life at Aspen Academy.”

Aspen Academy’s outdoor learning lab habitat consists of eight learning labs and over forty teaching gardens designed: to inspire good and deep thinking, to connect learning to real life; to promote lifelong skills; to develop new passions and interests; to grow an unyielding work ethic; to tease out the wonders of curiosity; and to make a positive and permanent impact on our world. These gardens are used by all students and contain various native plants. Starting with Kindergarten, students learn about sharing through planting, harvesting and producing consumable goods from our “Kinder Garden.” Third graders learn sustainability and take an active role by participating in various projects focused on reducing, repurposing and recycling. Fourth grade students develop their skills as “Citizen Scientists” through researching, designing and maintaining Aspen Academy’s wetlands environment.

Certification also makes Aspen Academy’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators. “We are excited to have another school join our growing list of more than 5,000 certified Schoolyard Habitats. Kids can now personally experience nature through hands-on learning in an outdoor environment,” said Liz Soper, Director of K-12 Programs for National Wildlife Federation. 

Special thanks to parent Pam Johnston and the numerous parents who have spent time volunteering to create a remarkable learning environment for our students. If you'd like to volunteer in our gardens, or as part of our annual Rake Up Aspen event, please reach out to volunteer@aspenacademy.org.