LandHealth Institute's Native Plant Nursery isn't just a destination for native flora. This Spring, 8th and 9th grade students from nearby Belmont Charter have been partaking twice/week in immersive, interdisciplinary, project-based ‘at the source’ education. The idea is that through exploration and forming a relationship with nature, students become environmental community advocates and stewards. At LandHealth, the disconnect between humans and nature has led to global environmental concerns, and relationships between humans and nature are crucial to combating these issues.
Belmont Charter students are learning about biomes and plant characteristics, food plant growing, harvesting and cooking through potting plugs and seeds, weeding, and watering. An overview of nursery operations offers students a foundation to begin thinking about the importance of native plants to Philadelphia ecosystems, the differences between native plants and the plants we grow for food, and the types of habitats that can be found in cities. A few students had to say about the first three weeks of the Program:
"What I like about being here is that we deal with plants and I haven’t had that feeling of touching plants, or seeing plants, or taking care of plants since it’s been a while since I gardened." Kamora, 8th grade
“I like it here because I get to continue doing what I’ve been doing for a long time. I’ve been doing gardening for years now with my mom, and we started off with just beans and I’ve seen how fast they grow. I wanted to keep on doing that because I like to watch them grow and watch them transition from little buds to big flowers and beans. There’s vegetables all over the place here, so I love it." Makayla, 8th grade
“It was a really fun experience for me because I got to learn more about plants than I ever have in school science. I got to water them and just learn more about them. You get to go outside and because of COVID, you can’t really go outside anymore, so it’s fun to get kids out here and learn about new things." Le’yanna, 8th grade
Alongside gardening projects, students participate in activities designed to build plant identification skills. They’re given a label for a plant that can be found somewhere in the Nursery and using a checklist of characteristics, they can answer yes or no questions to match their label to the correct plant. It’s an engaging way to teach ways of identifying native plants. They also learn about biomes that can be found around the city and have done drawings showing how one habitat transitions into another before taking a walk around the Nursery to find these biomes and their transition zones in real life. Introducing these types of topics and skills helps the students become familiar with their environment and has sparked their curiosity about nature. Discussions about the complexities of ecosystems has led to connections between LandHealth’s Native Plant Nursery and science classes they’re currently taking, an early and valuable step in becoming the next generation of environmental advocates and stewards!