Thursday, August 2, 2012

Central School’s Outdoor Classroom

    The Outdoor Classroom is located behind South Berwick’s Central Elementary School and wraps around the existing playground equipment in two directions. The concept was presented to the school board in April 2010 by local landscape architect Terrence Parker and was completed in May 2012 through ongoing community work days. The outdoor classroom is comprised of ten elements: a log walk, earthen berms, birch path, infinity walk, outdoor amphitheater, a wooded area, water garden, wildflower field, hoop house and fruit garden. It is enhanced by over two hundred trees and bushes. The outdoor classroom was made possible through donations of time, talent and resources as well as several local grants. This truly is the community’s outdoor classroom.
    The hoop house and fruit garden are sometimes referred to as the “Fresh Food Express”. Local food author and chef, Kathy Gunst, adopted the school through Michelle Obama’s program, “Chefs Move to Schools” , after she was invited to the White House in May 2010. Kathy began teaching nutrition and cooking classes in the fall of 2010 and was often accompanied by other chefs and nutritionists from the seacoast area. On March 17th, 2011 the first seeds for the hoop house were planted at the “Planting of the Green”. The kick-off was made extra special by master gardener, John Forti, who built excitement around planting rainbow swiss chard, curly kale and over a dozen other “green” treats. Since that first planting, Central School students have dined on stone soup, Swiss chard tacos, homemade salsa, fruit smoothies, kale chips, hoop house salad with homemade salad dressings and more, all made from our own hoop house harvest. Grants and donations from local farms enabled us to acquire the additional ingredients needed as well as kid-friendly cutting tools, bowls, pans and blenders.
    If you were to visit on a sunny spring school day you might see students performing a play in the outdoor amphitheater, building a teepee or bridge in the wooded area, stacking rocks in the water garden, measuring seedlings, navigating the infinity walk or harvesting kale. On a rainy day you might see students crossing the yard in their brightly colored raincoats with journals under their arms, eager to sit in the hoop house and journal.
    We welcome volunteers to the outdoor classroom. We appreciate help with maintaining, harvesting, and cooking with the students. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Central School at 384-2333, or email Central School’s principal, Nina D”Aran, at
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