Holy Family Academy celebrated Earth Day 2013 with several hands-on demonstrations developed by the school's Environmental Club. It was also the perfect occasion to announce Holy Family's receipt of an Illinois Schoolyard Habitat Grant. "This grant allows us to further develop our outdoor classroom initiative," states Mrs. Becky Sponseller, third grade teacher. The grant supports the Academy's rain garden, an outdoor laboratory designed to study earth science in a hands-on manner for learners in kindergarten through eighth grade. The rain garden project integrates math, science and language arts while promoting teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. It is also Phase 1 of Holy Family's multi-phased plan.
Mr. Joshua Routh, Principal, Growing Grace Landscape Associates, is lending his expertise to maximize the outdoor learning initiatives at Holy Family. Mr. Routh, degreed in Horticulture and Design from Purdue University, designed the Kid's Activity Garden at the 2013 Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier. "Studies show that outdoor learning programs and outdoor play benefit children's cognitive and social skills, states Mr. Routh. I applaud Holy Family for exploring ways to maximize their property for the benefit of their students."
Nature and outdoor education programs are not new to Holy Family Academy's curriculum. Students use the 20-acre property for cross-country skiing during the winter, and introduce overnight outdoor ed programs in fifth grade. Rain or shine, the students are outside exploring and learning through nature. "It is wonderful to see kids un-plugged and having a great time. Their imagination is stirred and they develop real world skills in addition to enjoying nature," states Mrs. Roberta Muran, sixth grade teacher.
The students are genuinely excited to be outside. Ava VonderHaar, third grade student, explains, "We can't wait to work in our garden. We're excited to invite Mayor Tatooles (Inverness) to our ground-breaking ceremony and show him that we're all called to care for our environment."