Wilton’s youngest students got the chance to get their hands dirty–literally and figuratively–for Earth Day. They were able to take part in activities in Miller-Driscoll‘s Outdoor Learning Center (OLC), the pre-K through 2nd grade school’s courtyard garden.

Overseen by the PTA, the OLC is used throughout the year by teachers as an outdoor classroom, not only with hands-on projects that let them expound upon science course work taught within the classroom, but it provides rich opportunities to learn about life cycles, plants, seasons, senses as well as helps them integrate math, poetry and writing, which some teachers take outside on good-weather days.

“The schools OLC’s environment provides a focus for learning that engages all children, fosters a sense of school ownership, and sparks imaginations and a cooperative spirit,” says one of the OLC PTA chairs, parent Lisa Davi. She co-chairs the PTA committee with Shannon Cuickshank, Joanna Lepore and Sarah Galante.

For Earth Day, the committee organized a three-day event to involve all the students pre-k through 2nd grade. Parent volunteers assisted classes with lessons and hands-on activities over three days–April 21-23.

The pre-K 3’s planted sunflowers and the pre-K 4s planted strawberries in the garden. Kindergarteners planted a rainbow flower garden and painted reusable snack bags. First grade classes held an outdoor puppet show and enjoyed a recycling scavenger hunt before planting vegetables like broccoli and potatoes. The second graders were treated to a composting demonstration from a Wilton business, Glen Gate, which has long supported the school’s OLC efforts.

The sustainability lessons will continue back in the classrooms, as each of the classes received a room composter in which they can put their scraps after snack. The compost that’s made will be used in the OLC. They also planted a “three sisters garden”–a symbiotic planting of corn, beans and squash–which they learned was a Native American tradition.

The students were eager and excited. The comments overheard by the adults included things like, “I love the Outdoor Learning Center!” and questions like, “What if we find a worm?” that were answered by friends with, “Worms are good…worm poop is good for the soil.”  There were even some kids who volunteered that they liked kale and broccoli.

The PTA supports for the OLC continues year round during the fall, spring and summer too. The program relies on parent volunteers, with coordination from the front office staff and help from Miller-Driscoll custodial staff as well. To prep for the Earth Day activities and to get the outdoor space ready for the spring, parent volunteers raked, weeded, mulched, and added compost to all the gardens. All supplies are funded by the M-D PTA.

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