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Stewart Students Have a New Outdoor Garden to Call Their Own

Driving past Stewart Elementary, you can’t miss the new schoolyard garden out front, which has been cared for by Student Council since the start of the school year and funded by the Arconic Foundation through a STEM grant.

The garden isn’t just there for good looks, although it certainly does come with that added benefit. The area will be used as an outdoor learning area for teachers and students, in whatever way they see fit.

“Right now, the garden is a starting point,” says Dr. Greg Egnor, Director of Student Services. “One of the benefits of this space is that it can really expand and change year to year with different students.”

The idea for the garden originated as part of a grant application submitted by Dr. Egnor that was ultimately accepted and paid for the space. The vision for the garden was to create a unique water garden that could demonstrate the complex process of watershed to students. The space is currently set up with water runoff barrels to collect rainwater, which can then be used to water the plants in the garden or for a variety of student experiments and learning opportunities.

The hope is that the garden can be instructional in this way and will help to start an important conversation about water conservation efforts and just show students how great the impact of a sidewalk community like ours can be on a national and even global scale.

Students might not necessarily think that what happens to the water runoff in front of their school directly impacts the quality of the water that eventually makes its way to the Allegheny, which then merges with the Ohio River, runs into the Mississippi and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. “The garden can be a good entry point for these types of conversations and learnings to take place,” says Dr. Egnor.

But there really are no limits as to how the outdoor space can be used and implemented into the curriculum. Students can also use the space for science experiments, such as learning about worm composting. Teachers and students can bring the arts into the space, and even display student artwork on the walls so that it starts to feel like a school community that is owned and cared for by the students.

A huge thank you to the Arconic Foundation for the funding that made the watershed garden possible.

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