West side school uses nature as a teacher in a unique way
CINCINNATI — Over the last four years, students at nearly 20 Cincinnati Public Schools have been able to experience nature in a way they may not always get to in the city.
Recently, Rees E. Price Academy planted trees to add to the canopy at the school in East Price Hill and soon they will have an all-new outdoor garden, a space where they will learn how to grow their own food and more.
It is fitting for the school where "kindness is the culture," and Principal Tiffani Maher said, "bringing in a garden, the culture of our teachers, cultivating that in our kids we can't go wrong."
This is part of a partnership with the Green Umbrella CPS Outside Impact Team.
Cynthia Walters is the Green Schoolyards coordinator.
"The main goal is to get more students outside and to create school teams, meaningful professional development, integrated curriculum, and really connect kids with nature. Not only that, but also create a pathway to add education, workforce skills development, and just really instilling for every CPS student, the benefits of tree canopies and benefits of growing food and good air quality for neighborhoods. Schools have a big, big role in doing that."
Principal Maher said the data shows that these programs do help children.
"We are in an urban oasis if you will and every last one of our kids here has experienced some sort of complex trauma. Being outside in the garden helps them to, to relax and to be calm and to help them get their hands dirty. Getting them outside breathing the fresh air, and then learning how to grow their own food and to cultivate things that are going to bring beauty and joy to them. It was I'm just glad that they chose us to be a part of this, this wonderful movement, planting trees for the tree canopies…it's a wonderful thing."
Maher said it also builds community.
it helps to build community, when you have teachers as amazing as ours are, they help the children realize like if you plant a tree in your community, you can come back in 1015 years later, and say, I planted that tree and sit in second grade. And that was one of the things that we did here, they're going to be able to come back to their school with their children, with their grandchildren. And say, we planted that tree right here when I was eight years old.
Maher added, "to be able to say I helped, and I contributed to the backyard garden or the front yard garden or my community garden. Those are life changing little nuggets that we're planting in kids so that they will be able to move forward and do great things."
Walter said this is just the beginning of further site improvements, school yards into parks, more visual pathways for a greener future. She wants to see it spread further.
"It needs to be a district wide effort, we have to put things in place that really sustain it, support teachers. It has to be an equitable distribution of resources. I also want to see the city involved. I really want this to be in an amazing partnership, especially with the new green Cincinnati plan. There is such potential, and we're beginning that right now and that's going to really set a precedence for the years to come and really inspire our next generation because they really need to be in control of what happens next."