Visitation Academy’s school colors may be red and white, but a new hue recently has made its presence known on campus: green.
Two greenhouses were brought in from Santa Barbara, Calif.—a larger facility for Lower School students and a smaller one for children in the Montessori School. “Our biggest goal with the greenhouses is to enhance our education—not just science, but to integrate them into as many curriculum areas as we can,” says Lower School principal Margaret Karl. “We hope to help our students see that we can grow things and then take it to our table.”
Visitation Academy collaborated with professionals from Monsanto’s education department to learn how to work with the greenhouses and to get ideas for class projects. One project currently in the works for Montessori and first-, second- and third-grade students is 'growing' a pizza.
While not all ingredients can be nurtured in the greenhouses, students are growing their own pizza toppings and herbs, such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, oregano, basil and parsley, according to third-grade teacher Carolyn Landwehr.
This project is spreading across subjects and curriculums: Landwehr explains that her class is using technology to create eBooks about the process of growing the food, complete with photos they took themselves. Other projects relate to the math and science aspect of measuring plant growth, as well as the artistic endeavor of drawing plant stages.
The grow-a-pizza program will wrap up in May with a pizza party, complete with donated dough and cheese. The children will be assembling the pizzas themselves, which means cooking also can be added to the many curriculums this project has touched. “The kids think it’s great,” Karl says. “With this project, they’re journaling, they’re watching things grow, they’re drawing pictures as they grow—they are certainly making it a little bit more of their own.”
The project is helping children cross grade levels as well, as the first-, second- and third-graders have worked to help the younger Montessori students. “It’s a dual process,” Landwehr says. “The older kids are taking ownership of helping the little ones, but at the same time they’re growing their own [plants].”
Older children in the Lower School also are using the greenhouses, but for different projects. For example, Karl notes a fifth-grade class that is growing corn for its social studies course. As these greenhouses are here to stay, only time will tell what other plant-based learning they will hold.
On The Cover: Learn more about Visitation Academy at the upcoming Lower School open house on April 5. Pictured: Shivashri Ananthamurugan and Anna Dennison. For more information, call 625-9100 or visit visitationacademy.org.