Each year our Outdoor Classroom gets busier than the year before. As the seasons change, our outdoor space grows and matures, offering new exploration and development for our students.
Our 2017-2018 school year began with plans for adding an orchard. We partnered with The Kansas City Community Gardens (KCCG) program, The Giving Grove, to plan a space for our new orchard. We introduced these plans to our families and church community with A Seeds of Love celebration in October. The weather was warm and sunny while we decorated flower pots and had a pumpkin walk.
The Rainbow School Giving Grove was planted in November on a cloudy, blustery day. Volunteers from Rainbow School, our summer program Over The Rainbow, and the KCCG Giving Grove planted seven apple and pear trees and two cherry bushes. We also built raised beds for and planted raspberries and blackberries. It will take our trees a couple of years to mature enough to produce good fruit, but we looked forward to spring berries. The Giving Grove will instruct our students in the care and harvesting of different fruits as well as introduce the concept of community giving as our future harvests will be donated to local food pantries.
During the installation of The Rainbow School Giving Grove, South-Broadland Presbyterian Church built and launched a community garden, which was named The Giving Garden. Six raised beds were originally constructed next to the Giving Grove, and that number increased by another four in the spring. Some of the beds are maintained by the church and some of the beds are leased to neighbors who may not have a garden spot in our urban community. A portion of the harvest is donated to a local food pantry. Our students get to see neighbors coming together to share gardening tips and produce as we tend to our orchard.
The Giving Garden also got a new rain catchment system built to support the community garden and the orchard. The three tank system was designed and built by a Rainbow School family with work support by other school families and staff. The tanks sit behind the Outdoor Classroom shed and catch the rainwater from the shed roof.
The Outdoor Classroom itself got some new additions and improvements this year. Two large trees in the parking lot had to be taken down, and we benefitted with the addition of large log climbing structures added to our space. Gross motor skills are developed in the climbing up and down as well as the carrying and building done with smaller logs.
We also replaced three aged raised beds in our vegetable garden with five new raised beds. As spring and summer came around, we were excited to plant even more of our favorite vegetables, such as kale, snack peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green beans.
A new tradition started last year in the Outdoor Classroom with the outgoing pre-K class planting a new tree or shrub in our space. The graduating class of 2017 planted a Rainbow Pillar serviceberry tree, and the graduating class of 2018 planted a spicebush. Both are located in our prayer labyrinth and will be marked with a plaque.
The most recent addition to our Outdoor Classroom is a Messy Materials Patio. It is newly completed, and we are anxious to start building, imagining, and creating in the new space. All of our improvements are thanks to the hard work of our Rainbow School family volunteers.