GASPORT – Royalton-Hartland Elementary School children are becoming more aware at an early age of how agriculture connects to their local community through the creation of an Outdoor Learning Lab on school property.
A group of Elementary School students celebrated the launch of the Lab’s first phase today by participating in the cultivation of plants in new raised garden beds and the installation of weather stations. An educational shed soon will be open for teaching and demonstrating purposes.
Students participating included (class) with Jessica Monaco, fourth-grade teacher, and Susan McLaughlin, first-grade teacher, and Donna VanSlyke, school building principal.
“The Outdoor Learning Lab serves as an excellent opportunity to deliver hands-on environmental and agricultural education programming to students and residents within the Royalton Hartland Central School District,” said Dr. Hank Stopinski, Superintendent of Schools.
With the Roy-Hart School District working in partnership with community stakeholders, a self-sustaining community garden will both support families in need and provide an educational land lab for teaching. “Our objective is to help build a community of Roy-Hart residents that is engaged in environmental and agricultural stewardship and the long-term improvement of community green space,” Stopinski said.
As an example, the Educational Shed will serve as a research venue for students and a location for these students, their families, and local residents to engage in community greening activities. “Teaching students and community members the value of sustainable agriculture also helps to increase access to fresh foods, decrease food insecurities, and improve dietary habits,” Stopinski remarked, adding, “The Outdoor Learning Lab, combined with a number of other supporting agricultural education initiatives, is another opportunity for Roy-Hart students to stand out above others in learning the significance of agriculture to our state’s economy and to act responsibly on it for our future.”
Initial financing for the Outdoor Learning Lab came through funds made available by FMC Corporation (FMC) to be requested by the Royalton-Hartland School District for qualified projects under the Environmental Benefit Projects Policy of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), in accordance with a 2019 Order on Consent between FMC and NYSDEC.