Lewis Elementary School
The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of Lewis Elementary School, such a combined effort has helped shape one of the most extensive and inclusive school garden programs in the city.
Everywhere you look around the Lewis campus there are gardens and outdoor learning areas, the most recent being the new butterfly garden at the front of the school that brought together parents and business partners with students in a series of springtime work parties.
In 1977 a garden program was started, but gradually fell into disuse and lay fallow for several years. But in 2005 interest in the possibilities for a garden program was rekindled, and with the help of PSU’s FEED program, the Lewis Garden project embarked with a new vigor.
These last three years have seen the creation of an extensive Outdoor Education Center, complete with covered learning areas, several edible garden plots, a large greenhouse, rain barrels, four raised beds and a native plant habitat – the active integration of outdoor activities with their regular school curriculum: While working on English, math, art and science skills students also learn about composting, harvesting rainwater, raising and caring for plants, saving seeds.
In the Summer Gardening Camp, students discover how much fun it can be to grow their own food, learning to cook what they harvest. Mature apple trees -- planted shortly after the program originally started thirty years ago -- provide an opportunity to watch how fruit changes through the seasons before it is harvested.
In 2007 Lewis partnered again with PSU and the Village Building Convergence to build an outdoor classroom space topped with a living eco-roof and a covered cob bench that curves and twists like the body of a dragon along one side of the school. So, almost at any time of year the sound of children’s voices can be heard around the school in an outdoor environment both hospitable and invigorating.
AmeriCorps volunteers operate special programs throughout the year, like the Third Grade Going Green Team responsible for composting cafeteria scraps and the Summer Gardening Camp. Volunteers from the Eastmoreland Garden Club helped out and a partnership with Reed College enable students to take part in environmental education and science enrichment classes relating to their garden activities.
There is a buzz of activity at Lewis Elementary as the outdoors and the indoors of learning merge into an exciting whole; an accomplishment of which the village can be proud.