Monday, September 26, 2011

The Teaching Gardens at St. Mike's

In my Schools and Society course this week the readings focused on a part of the book that describes good schools; schools such as Summerhill in England, the Central Park East Schools in New York, the Met in Rhode Island and the HiPass schools. In Addition to having a focus on the individual student and the establishment

of authentic learning communities the guiding tenets of these schools also include the belief that genuine learning must occur outside the classroom as well as within and that there has to be a connection between the two.

The Teaching Gardens at St. Mike's are a wonderful example of the way the classroom can be taken outdoors. This weekend another feature was added to the Gardens that enhances their value as part of an extended learning community.

A series of signs has been added to the Gardens that help people
from 8 to 80 learn more about the plants through words and symbols.

The signs are the work of Professor Valerie Bang-Jensen and senior SMC elementary education major Courtney Smith.

Courtney, a double elementary education and religious studies major designed the signs during the summer with a VPAA summer research grant. She designed the five signs using visual and verbal text (symbols and words) to help educate visitors

to the gardens about the purpose of each garden. In addition to being visited by SMC students and staff, the gardens are becoming
a destination for classes of students from many local area schools.

In fact, many of the groups of children who visit the gardens are accompanied by SMC education majors who are completing their student teaching experience in public school classrooms.

Many SMC faculty also hold their classes in the Teaching Gardens when the weather permits.

The Teaching Gardens are also a central theme in an integrated First Year seminar co-taught by Professors Valerie Bang-Jensen (Education) and Mark Lubkowitz (Biology).

When we reach out beyond the classroom walls both teaching and learning become more real and relevant to the lives of everyone involved.

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