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Outdoor Classroom to Help Baltimore Students Learn, Grow

AARP Maryland, the AARP Foundation and REAL School Gardens partner to build an outdoor classroom for southwest Baltimore students. (REAL School Gardens)
AARP Maryland, the AARP Foundation and REAL School Gardens partner to build an outdoor classroom for southwest Baltimore students. (REAL School Gardens)
May 10, 2018

BALTIMORE – In southwest Baltimore, an empty schoolyard will be transformed into an outdoor classroom and learning garden to help students improve science, math, literacy and nutrition education.

Thursday’s Big Dig garden-building event at James McHenry Elementary School will have more than 100 volunteers from co-sponsor AARP Maryland helping to bring to life a learning garden designed by students, parents, teachers and administrators.

School Principal Chris Christophe Turk says the project was a learning experience from the start, allowing everyone, young and old, to engage in a shared experience.

"Everybody really seeing a common outcome and a common vision, which is about building this really exciting and transformational classroom space," Turk states.

The national nonprofit group REAL School Gardens helps give teachers in low-income schools tools to utilize learning gardens. REAL helped create the final learning garden, which features a shaded instructional area with a whiteboard and seating area.

The garden will help the school's 400-plus students, but Bill Romani, director of AARP Experience Corps, says AARP wanted to help create a gathering space for the community to come together.

"Create not just a learning environment for the students at James McHenry, but also to create a intergenerational learning and gathering space in West Baltimore," he explains.

According to REAL School gardens, standardized test scores go up 12 to 15 percent in schools that have partnered in the group’s learning garden programs.

The Big Dig event by the AARP Foundation and AARP Maryland begins at 9 a.m., and volunteers are welcomed to help the students grow vegetable beds, pollinator plants and native trees.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD