Daniel Warren’s Peace Garden is an educational sanctuary. Kindergarteners and first graders celebrated Earth Day in the garden by awakening the earth after a long winter and planting flowers.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Daniel Warren’s Peace Garden is an educational sanctuary. Kindergarteners and first graders celebrated Earth Day in the garden by awakening the earth after a long winter and planting flowers. On Arbor Day, they picked out the trees that need replanting and enjoyed the garden’s cherry tree in full bloom.
“We are so fortunate to have this outdoor classroom. There are many curriculum connections, but our garden is also good for the heart and soul,” remarked first grade teacher Jane Schumer. “It provides kids with a space for quiet moments and reflection. It also teaches them to respect the earth.”
Schumer and kindergarten teacher Connie Levin, discovered a peace garden’s potential when a parent shared a powerful children’s book, “Wangari’s Trees of Peace” five years ago. The true story of Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is about her life as a young girl in Kenya and how she was impacted by the country’s deforestation practices. By planting seedlings in her own backyard, she inspired great change and established the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 50 million trees in Kenya since 1977.
Moved by the story, Schumer and Levin, with then Principal Joan Babcock, had students collect acorns, watch them blossom under grow lights, and plant them in an outdoor nursery. Before long, a Peace Garden flourished with the installation of raised beds, a peace mandala, a peace pole, benches, and a variety of perennials and trees, including a North American pine, which symbolizes peace.
“The children really grasp the garden’s message of peace and sustainability,” said Levin. “They know that the trees we plant today will benefit the planet. They know other children will have the chance to play under those trees or that creatures will be living in their branches.”
In addition, the Peace Garden enhances the academic experience, whether the students study insects on plants through magnifying glasses for science or calculate how far seeds should be planted for math. Incorporating the school’s health and wellness initiative, teachers also have the kids plant seeds and enjoy a salad in June in a “seed to feed” program. The garden also inspires their writing and artwork.
As Levin noted, “Big ideas are tangibly executed through the garden.” Schumer added, “It’s important for the children to get their hands in the soil. After all, they are the future custodians of the earth.”