Tomorrow may be Earth Day, but at Owatin Creek, every day seems like a celebration of nature with the school's eco-friendly focus. Each wing is decorated in its own season; school assemblies take place on nice days in the natural outdoor amphitheater; and the school has its own nature trail cams, outdoor classroom and walking trails. The school, which opened in 2011, also boasts an eco-conscious design with a geothermal HVAC system, energy efficient lighting and solar panels, earning it a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) certification in 2012.
But what you may not know is that even the gardens at Owatin Creek are thoughtfully planted with the Owatin Creek APT, Wolf-Run Landscapes and Ridgewood Soils partnering with the school to donate their materials and time to install and plant a certified native garden. Since the garden was designed, installed and planted in 2016, all OC second graders go through a rite of passage (and get a little dirty) by helping their teachers maintain and care for the garden throughout the year--with several high school students returning in the summer to help with maintenance to earn community service hours. In addition to maintaining the garden by doing clean-up, edging and removal of dead plants, students also get their hands dirty and lay mulch to keep the garden at the entrance to the school looking its best.
Second grade teacher Dani Jupina said that achieving designation as a certified native garden, which was provided by the Penn State Extension, is no easy feat and takes thought with the plant selection and how it impacts the natural environment--which are lessons 2nd grade teachers pass along to their students in this outdoor learning environment. "A native garden has plants that are native to this part of Pennsylvania. They help the pollinators, the birds--really, all of the things that are native to this area. These," she says, as she points to the garden, "are the plants they need to survive."