Fredstrom garden returns to its roots

Outdoor learning has a long and storied past at Fredstrom Elementary School.  From its inception almost 30 years ago, the Fredstrom garden has supported students in discovering the world around them. Eager for a place that students could engage with their environment, Fredstrom teacher Rosemary Thorton began a Butterfly Garden in the late 1980s.  With the help of students, the garden was expanded to include a prairie grassland area. Several years later, an outdoor classroom was established to carry on Thorton’s legacy.

InventoryNative tallgrass prairie habitat
 Outdoor classroom space and viewing area
 Interpretive signs

Life in the garden has been constantly growing since its beginning.  Designed to supplement learning, the plants and design of the space closely follow the changes in LPS curriculum.  Each grade spends at least two sessions in the garden each year, tied with a specific unit. In Kindergarten, students learn about their Plants unit in the outdoor classroom.  First grade covers Life Cycles, 2nd tackles Habitats, 4th graders study the prairie, and 5th grade addresses Water and Wetlands. These explicit connections between the curriculum and the garden present students with the unique opportunity to physically interact with the content they are studying.  This tangible learning carries with it an undeniable impact that is largely absent when students are taught merely through pictures in a textbook.

Science Specialist Rochelle Settles is proud of the potency of the Fredstrom garden.  “Every time students visit the outdoor classroom is enjoyable and effective,” Settles says.  “It’s important for them to see that habitat can occur in the smallest places.”

To continue this learning for students outside of the classroom, Settles established a Garden Club.  Students in the club help with the monumental task of maintaining the bluestem, indiangrass, sideoats grama grasses, and all other vegetation in the garden.  They also get the chance to spend more time in the garden, learning through doing.

Students at Fredstrom are privileged to have access to their own personal native tallgrass prairie, the most endangered ecosystem on our continent.  This garden gives them the chance to interact with the science of their home, encouraging life-long learning and fostering an appreciation of their home.

Curriculum Topics Covered 
First GradeLife Cycles
Second GradeHabitats
Fourth GradePrairie, Living and Nonliving organisms
Fifth GradeWater and Wetlands
After school programsCare and maintenance of the garden and classroom