On April 27, 2019, Hollin Meadows Elementary School (HMES) hosted its students and alumni, their families, and members of the community for the school’s first Earth Day celebration since embarking on a major renovation project in 2016. During construction, HMES’ 14,000 sq. ft. gardens, enjoyed by students and community members alike, were forced to go fallow, so this year’s Earth Day celebration was especially poignant, marking not just the end of construction but also the beginning of a new chapter in the school’s Outdoor Education Program.
HMES’ annual Earth Day celebration has always been an opportunity for community service, and this year’s celebration was no exception. Volunteers mobilized around several key projects: building a sensory path that leads to a bamboo tepee and painting a mural in the Outdoor Classroom; and laying mulch and completing the new compost system in the Learning Production Garden. Over the course of the day, all projects were completed! Clearly, the gardens of HMES are still a source of community pride, as they were in 2009 when First Lady Michelle Obama visited the school to recognize its efforts around nutrition, fitness, and Outdoor Education.
HMES’ gardens are also a source of great fun and present unique learning opportunities for all. This year’s Earth Day celebration included several exhibits and activities—one on worm composting, where students explained the vital role that red worms play in breaking down household waste; another focused on bat habitats and led students on a scavenger hunt in search of five bat houses located on the HMES campus. And as part of the student-led seedling sale, curious consumers quizzed students about their inventory and asked for planting tips. Students contextualized the sale by explaining how they planted the seedlings and nurtured their maturation over the previous weeks.
Indeed, growth and transformation were prominent themes at this year’s Earth Day celebration. Past partnerships previously in repose reemerged and new partnerships were showcased: Mount Vernon District Supervisor Daniel Storck, a former HMES board member, was present as was leadership from Index Analytics, LLC, a data analytics and program management consulting firm, which awarded the Hollin Meadows Partnership for Outdoor Education a $5,000 grant for installing a solar-powered drip irrigation system in the Learning Production Garden. Also present were representatives from Arcadia, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area, who have provided expertise and support to Ms. Buchanan and the Partnership as they’ve worked to reestablish the Outdoor Education Program.
HMES 2019 Earth Day may have been three years in the making, but it was clear to all who participated that the passion and focus that initiated the school’s gardens and Outdoor Education Program so long ago remain present and stronger than ever—and will no doubt carry the Program through the Spring 2019 growing cycle and beyond!