Secret Garden & Outdoor Learning

Sewickley Academy’s Secret Garden offers a dynamic and beautiful setting for teachers to integrate the external environment into the teaching of every discipline, including science, math, language arts, environmental studies, nutrition, and health. The garden is part of the Academy's ongoing effort to provide engaging, hands-on educational experiences for its students, Pre-K through Grade 12.

As an outdoor classroom and experiential learning center, the garden will provide students with opportunities to work collaboratively with peers and faculty in other divisions and disciplines to cultivate their understanding of the interconnections within the environment and gain an appreciation of the importance of sustainability. Students will participate in all phases of soil preparation, sowing, cultivating, harvesting, consuming, and composting, which will demonstrate the cyclical nature of organic processes and enrich their appreciation of how gardens can inspire and reward whole communities.

Teaching Gardens

The Secret Garden is comprised of a number of different teaching gardens that focus on specific plant themes. There is also reserved space for raised beds for clubs and classes to use. The five major garden areas include:
  • Native Garden - educates students about indigenous flora and fauna.
  • Sensory Garden - provides students with an opportunity to engage all five senses as they explore the garden and learn about unique plant life.
  • Butterfly Garden - creates a complex ecosystem that attracts a butterfly population for student observation. Students will be able to track the butterflies throughout their life stages in this space.
  • Victory Garden - grows harvestable vegetables for use in our school cafeterias and to donate to local food banks. This part of the garden will help educate students about the sources of our food and develop an appreciation for the process of growing it.
  • Flower Garden - provides aesthetically diverse plant life. We plan to use cut flowers from this space to be used in offices, cafeterias, and common spaces throughout the campus.

Gardens in the Classroom

Sewickley Academy teachers are using the garden as part of their regular instruction, enriching their curriculum with hands-on experiences. Here are a few examples:
  • In Middle School U.S. History, students researched which plants/herbs were used during colonial times and studied the ways they were used during that era. They planted a colonial herb garden in the Secret Garden containing many of the plants they researched. While studying the Civil War, the class planted a crop of cotton to learn first-hand the hard work that slaves endured on cotton plantations, as well as the significance and impact of modern innovations like the cotton gin.
  • In the Lower School, young student scientists use the garden to learn about soil composition, composting, and the lifecycles of plants and insects.
  • Lower School Spanish teachers and students will plant a salsa garden this spring to grow the vegetables needed to make salsa during their cultural cooking classes.
  • Ceramics classes have used the garden to conduct Raku firings for student pottery. This process requires the firing of pottery in pits dug into the earth. The students were responsible for their pottery from early stages of conception all the way to the firing.
  • Students in Middle School science will explore alternative energy through the building and testing of different model structures within the garden.

Garden Governance

The Secret Garden is supervised by the Secret Garden Committee for both Academy and general community use. The committee oversees the budget, ensures year-round maintenance, develops a time-line for planting and usage by faculty, students and community members, and guides the implementation of instructional activities within the space. The committee seeks input from local garden clubs, Academy community members, and others with expertise in the development and maintenance of large-scale community gardens like the Secret Garden.

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Sewickley Academy
315 Academy Avenue
Sewickley, PA 15143
Sewickley Academy is a nationally recognized Pittsburgh private school enrolling students in Pre-K through Grade 12 on a single campus.