How Does Your Garden Grow?

In the spring of 2009, St. Christopher’s started its first Learning Garden. A number of Lower School teachers came up with the idea to create a school garden because of the rich learning opportunities it would provide the boys. The opportunity for use throughout our curriculum was evident, and through the hard work of a dedicated garden committee composed of teachers, administrators and parents, our idea came to fruition. We are fortunate to have an outdoor place for all divisions and disciplines to think, explore and learn. From the onset we have emphasized that this is not the science garden, or even the Lower School garden, but instead a whole school, curriculum-driven garden.

Why a Garden?

In this emerging global economy, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we must prepare our students to be aware of their individual impact on both the world population and the environment. Many of the world’s people experience this through their daily dependence on and interaction with our environment. Increasing dependence on technology, changing attitudes towards safety, and the formal organization of children’s play time has diminished children’s outdoor time. Our garden is a chance to strengthen this component with our boys in a variety of ways. In addition to environmental education, the garden will be integrated into current event, history, social studies, math, reading and science activities. It also allows cross-divisional experience for students as Upper and Middle School boys work with Lower School boys in the planning, building, use and maintenance of the garden.

What Are We Doing?

The features of the site provide a unique opportunity. The area is at a fairly low point of the campus and had significant water issues with an existing “streambed” that runs through the site and a large drainage ditch. Our talented garden experts devised a plan that will use the water in a fun and creative way for the boys while helping to abate our impact on the James River Watershed. The runoff from the paved areas around the Lower School is redirected into a bioswale that will incorporate water plants and other features to help eliminate pollutants and particulate matter from runoff. Mr. McGuire’s Environmental Science class will be planting a water garden as an ongoing lab. 

One of the Richmond area’s first cistern irrigation systems was installed to capture the runoff from the drain field that ends at a neighboring building as well as the runoff from the driveway, sending the water to the concrete cistern located in the back left area of the space. This cistern feeds drip hoses that are embedded in the soil in the four “working” beds. 

The “working” beds are for planting various plants that suit our units of study or fit a particular need. The remainder of the garden is planted with assorted micro gardens that focus on a specific area of study or topic for use year to year, such as a butterfly garden or colonial herb garden. 

We are optimistic about attracting wildlife and have installed a “birdhouse cam” on the back of the JK house. This bluebird house is wired with a digital camera and is connected to our school network. Any teacher will be able to pull up this camera on their computer for the boys to watch live! Here’s hoping for some tenants to watch throughout the spring.

Weather Report

The Learning Garden in Action!

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