The information below is from an article published in the summer 2014 edition of Virginia Parks & Recreation magazine.
Students at Belvedere Elementary School in Mason District maintain a garden on raised beds, an adopted trail, and decomposition and lifecycle gardens. They remove invasive plants and replace them with native plants. They share food they raise with a local shelter, and they’re starting a seedling nursery.
Many elementary schools do some sort of outdoor gardening, but Belvedere has done a whole lot more.
Before the school adopted Belvedere Park, many staff members didn’t realize there was a park next door that could be used to enhance the school’s education program, says Belvedere’s environmental educator, Stacey Evers. Park Manager Richard Maple helped Evers design a trail from the school’s field into the heart of the open space, and school volunteers built the trail, Evers writes in the GreenBelvedere blog.
Erin Stockschlaeder, the Invasive Management Area coordinator for the Park Authority, works with Evers and students to remove invasives and plant native species. Last year, students collected acorns, which they will cultivate on school property. When the oaks are big enough, the students will plant them in the park.
This spring, Belvedere students planted a dozen new native trees on school grounds donated by the Urban Forest Management Division in the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.
These projects help students learn about nature and the responsibilities of stewardship, while the improvements they make will benefit the county and residents for many years.