Join More Than 150 Volunteers This Weekend at Maury Elementary
National Nonprofit REAL School Gardens Launches in Alexandria
On September 10th, in a single day, more than 150 teachers, students, and community volunteers will work side-by-side to create a REAL school garden, an outdoor classroom, at Matthew Maury Elementary in Alexandria. Soon, Maury students will have a dynamic new learning laboratory where they can receive the experiential hands-on learning they need to succeed in school and in life. Leidos, a global science and technology solutions company, has stepped forward to provide both funding and the volunteers for the project as part of its commitment to support STEM education. This will be the fifth REAL school garden constructed in the Mid-Atlantic, and the first in Virginia.
REAL School Gardens is a national nonprofit that builds learning gardens in elementary schools and then spends three years training teachers to use them to improve academics. Partner schools have seen 12-15% increases in standardized test scores, especially in Science. The REAL School Gardens Teacher Training Program has also been proven to boost teacher effectiveness and job-satisfaction, and improve student engagement in their lessons.
This REAL school garden is one of the first components of the Maury Schoolyard Initiative, a multi-year, multi-phase renovation project to rehabilitate the school’s outdoor space, which has been plagued with drainage and runoff issues for years. To help fix those issues and design the new space, back in February, dozens of parents, teachers, administrators, and students came together to discuss past issues and share ideas on how to tailor the outdoor classroom to teachers’ and students’ needs.
Now that the design is finalized, REAL School Gardens is kicking things off with a “Big Dig” event, a fun, satisfying, and highly-visual day of community service. Construction is now underway at the site.
The first “Big Dig” in Virginia will be held:
Where: Matthew Maury Elementary, located at 600 Russell Rd, Alexandria, VA 22301
When: Saturday, September 10th, beginning at 9:00 a.m.
If you want to help with the ‘Big Dig’, RSVP to Zoe Gossett.
The new outdoor classroom will feature two seating areas, white boards, storage sheds, paved pathways, raised vegetable beds, perennial and herb beds, fruit trees, compost bins, butterfly and wildlife habitats, a weather station, and a human sun-dial. The design also includes an earth science station and rain garden to help children learn about erosion and other environmental issues.
REAL School Gardens CEO Jeanne McCarty said, “Once the garden is constructed, our instructional coach will come out and work side-by-side with teachers for years to really show them how to use the outdoor classroom to enhance Science, Math, and Language Arts instruction. Kids get so much more engaged in learning when they have hands-on lessons outdoors. We’ve already got more than 100 partner schools under our belts, and they report 12-15% increases in test scores. The improvements are especially impressive in Science.” McCarty added “These learning gardens in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia are the first phase of a national growth plan for the nonprofit, which will expand to four new regions by 2020.”
“We’re committed to building the workforce of the future and believe strongly in the importance of STEM education,” said Roger Krone, Leidos Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “REAL School Gardens’ mission to do the same directly aligns with our priorities and we couldn’t be more pleased to support them as well as the faculty, parents, and children of Maury Elementary.”
“Alexandria City Public Schools is excited to begin the work of transforming the Maury schoolyard into an area where all students can play, learn and grow. This project has taken a lot of planning and hard work on the part of the community, ACPS families and our partners. We are glad this hard work is finally beginning to pay off and we look forward to seeing our community come together to collaborate in the Big Dig this weekend,” said Clarence Stukes, Chief Operating Officer for Alexandria City Public Schools.
Since it began building learning gardens in 2003, REAL School Gardens has:
- Trained 4,000+ teachers
- Reached more than 100,000+ students
- Activated 8,400+ volunteers to help build and maintain the learning gardens
- Serviced 18 school districts.
A rendering of what the Real School garden will look like at Maury: