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An Outdoor Learning Center for Kids

Sometimes a passionate community is all it takes to make change really happen. Just take a look at how far Fireside Elementary School in Louisville, Colorado has come since 2007. Like other schools around the country, Fireside Elementary School wanted to teach kids about healthy eating. Despite being under tight financial means, the school was able to improve school meals, thanks to the Boulder Valley’s School Food Project, which rallied members within the community around this important cause to raise money for all schools within the Boulder district, including Fireside Elementary. A group of parents also volunteered their time to help build a school garden.

Mrs. Haxton's 3rd graders getting instructions for their fall harvest lesson. (Photo credit: Callie Palen-Lowrie)

Mrs. Haxton's 3rd graders getting instructions for their fall harvest lesson. (Photo credit: Callie Palen-Lowrie)

After seeing the amazing effects providing a school garden and more fruits and vegetables for students, parents and staff were inspired to do more. They didn’t just want to provide good food to kids, but also teach them why healthy eating is so important.  In the summer of 2012, the community transformed the garden to an Outdoor Learning Center, which quickly became a front and center feature at the school. The center features 7 raised garden beds (one for each grade level), a shaded seating and teaching area, and various observation and study features that relate to existing curricula.

To fund the project, the school officials saved up funds that are normally used each year for small projects, raised funds through the Fireside Parent-Teacher Organization, and reached out to local businesses for donations. Other community members and parents contributed by lending a hand in building the area. It truly was a community effort.

Fireside parents and students installing the woodland garden area

Fireside parents and students installing the woodland garden area. (Photo credit: Callie Palen-Lowrie)

In addition to gardening, the space offers kids the perfect opportunity to learn outside. The Growe Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit that helps facilitate experiential learning programs for kids, has helped teachers find ways to take advantage of the new space and incorporate healthy living and nature seamlessly into their curricula. The school has also offered the space to the broader community for gatherings, meetings and clubs. As one parent says, “it is becoming a healthy lifestyle hub of activity!”


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