The Outdoor Classroom will post news, events, progress and milestones to this blog. Be sure to bookmark the page or visit often so you can see the progress we are making to transform the courtyard into a vibrant, inspiring place to learn!

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Priorities, Budget and Volunteer Opportunities!

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Outdoor Classroom Committee Planning for 2015-16


The Outdoor Classroom Committee leadership team met on October 8th to discuss priorities for the year and our budget. We put together this list of priorities to focus our work, direct our volunteers and help us fundraise. The Outdoor Classroom Committee remains open to new ideas that may arise from teachers, parents and students.


• Hire an Outdoor Classroom Coordinator (convene a Work Group to work out the details)

• Spring Edible Garden program at SCES (K-3 Salad Parties; Three Sisters & Colonial Garden; plant a redbud tree with Girl Scouts)

• Host an Opening of the Outdoor Classroom Stage

• Keeping the Outdoor Classroom Beautiful

◦ ongoing weeding and maintenance

◦ Fall and Spring Work Days

◦ organize a training of staff and volunteers on plant identification

• Increase the use of the Outdoor Classroom

◦ help with lesson planning

◦ create and install signage around the Outdoor Classroom

◦ identifying places in the curriculum to use the Outdoor Classroom

• Monarch Sister School Program at SCES

• Construct new features - If time, resources and volunteer capacity allows, work on the next zone (pond, sensory garden, bird habitat)


Current Funds Available: approx. $9,000

2015-16 Spending Plan (approximate figures)

Edible Garden at SCES $1,000

Operations & Maintenance $1,000

Coordinator Position $7,000 (spending amount depends on job responsibilities & available funding)

Spending Total $9,000

** The Outdoor Classroom Committee will work with the Sligo Creek Education Foundation on securing additional resources to support our work.

Open Volunteer Positions:

• Organize the Spring Work Day

• Coordinate the SCES Edible Garden Program

• Work on Signage

• Explore construction options for the next zones (pond, sensory garden, bird habitat)

Thank you Work Day Volunteers!

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

THANK YOU to all the students and families who helped with the SCES/SSIMS Outdoor Classroom Workday on Saturday, Sept. 26! Together we weeded garden beds, landscaped and planted a tree near our new stage, picked up playground trash and had a great time! We couldn’t keep the

Outdoor Classroom looking great without your help, and we really appreciate you generously giving your time – it makes a big difference!

Join us! Fall Workday - Sat. 9/26 10:00-2:00

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

For the second year in a row, Sligo Creek ES will partner with The Tower Companies ( for their Green Apple Day of Service, in which the company’s employees will complete a service project at our school. The Tower Companies own the Blair Apartments and have many residents whose children attend Sligo Creek ES and SSIMS, and they are very interested in contributing to their educational experiences. This Thursday, the Tower Companies employees will landscape and provide seating for the beautiful new STAGE that was completed in the Outdoor Classroom over the summer!



We’re not looking for volunteers on Thursday, but *please come out to the Outdoor Classroom Fall Workday, SATURDAY 9/26, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.* We will be removing LOTS OF WEEDS, so bring your gloves, weeding tools, and be prepared to get dirty! SSL hours available. Coffee and snacks while supplies last. There is a “Sweep the Creek” event that day, too, and they will be clearing trash and recycling from the schools’ campus, so lots of opportunities to help out our schools/our environment on Saturday. Enter through the doors by the cafeteria down Schuyler Road from the main entrance. We hope to see you there!

Great New: Outdoor Classroom Stage Built

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I hope everyone has enjoyed their summers! We have fabulous news that the stage in the Outdoor Classroom, at long last, is COMPLETE!!!! Pictures are below. This project began many months ago with a survey of teacher priorities, developed through fundraising and a generous grant from Westfield Malls, and finished with construction and the help of MCPS. Thanks to everyone who played a part in making this happen! The stage is intended primarily to give teachers a space to teach lessons outside, but I’m sure uses will evolve as teachers get a feel for how to incorporate this great resource. The next steps will include landscaping and installing seating, which we will accomplish through our partnership with the Tower Companies for their Day of Service upcoming on September 24.

The Stage is Coming Over the Summer!

Posted on June 12, 2015 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Hi Sligo Creek Parents –

We are excited to announce that the Stage in the Outdoor Classroom will be built over the summer (image below)! This stage is being built largely as a result of a generous grant from Westfield Malls, in addition to funds raised by the Outdoor Classroom Committee. The location for the stage is currently marked in the Outdoor Classroom with stakes and orange ground paint. Take a look if you’re around school today and Monday to see what you think! We expect that construction will begin in June and will be completed by mid-July. Please contact me with any questions or concerns.

Happy Summer!

Debbie Boger (on behalf of the Outdoor Classroom Committee

Edible Garden Update - Spring 2015

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Sligo Creek Families –

For the last two weeks, I have had the honor of working with an AMAZING team of volunteers who have made it possible for every single student at Sligo Creek to plant edible plants in the Outdoor Classroom. These volunteers have given up many hours of their time (each class gets a half hour lesson along with their planting) to teach our kids how (and why!) to plant edible foods. Jes Skillman led many of the K – 3 and 4th grade classes and Emmanuelle Dupart led all of the K – 3 French immersion classes IN FRENCH. Helping to lead were Monica Nermark (in French), Nichole Bennett, Malia Hale, Margrit Wong, Amy Thompson-Jacobs, Lauren Aucoin, and others. Please thanks these volunteers when you see them!!!

In case you don’t know about the edible gardens program at Sligo Creek, each grade gets its own lesson plan:

· 5th grade students, who study Colonial America in social studies, plant a Colonial Garden;


· 4th grade students, who study Native Americans in social studies, plant the “Three Sisters” Garden (a Native American planting technique for corn, beans, and squash;


· K – 3rd grade students plant lettuce, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, sugar snap peas, and carrots.


- 3rd graders learn which parts of the plants perform which functions


- 2nd graders learn what parts of the plant we can eat (answer: all parts, depending on the plant)


- 1st graders learn why it is good to plant and eat our own food, and


- Kindergarteners learn what a plant needs to grow.


COMING UP: Grades K – 3 will harvest their salad fixings and celebrate with a Salad Party, supported with toppings and salad dressing from our own Whole Foods Silver Spring Store. *We are in the process of confirming that the Salad Party will happen on Friday, June 5.* We will need lots of volunteers to help wash the produce and serve salad, so please mark this date tentatively in your calendar and plan to attend!

(And here's a photos of the plants emerging!)

Spring Workday Postponed: Now March 27th!

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Mother Nature has asked us to postpone the Outdoor Classroom Spring Workday again! We are going to try something different this time – the workday will now be scheduled from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on FRIDAY, MARCH 27. This is a no-school day for students and a Professional Day for Teachers. There are some advantages to holding the workday on Friday, but we realize there are some disadvantages, too, and that some families will not be able to attend. We hope, though, that as many families as possible can use the day to come out and help the schools get the Outdoor Classroom ready for spring programs.


Please attend the Outdoor Classroom Workday on *FRIDAY, MARCH 27, FROM 10 A.M. – 3 P.M.* Below is a description of the workday – we hope to see you!





POSTPONED TO FRIDAY, MARCH 27 (No School for Students; Professional Day for Teachers); 10 - 3




· AMEND AND TURN OVER SOIL IN SALAD BEDS AND GARDENS. Last year’s planting spaces need to be readied for this year’s planting. Weed, add compost, and turn over soil to get ready for this year’s gardens.










Come to the large courtyard (enter near the Sligo Creek cafeteria; there will be directions from the school entrances) anytime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. FRIDAY, MARCH 27TH. We will have coffee and snacks while supplies last. Please bring gloves, shovels and spades, hand pruners, trowels, rakes, and wheelbarrows if you have them. *Label EVERYTHING with your name.* Students can get SSL hours for helping. We encourage kids to come and help, and we hope to see you there!

March 2015 Update

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi Outdoor Classroom Committee – it looks like Spring is actually going to come this year (notwithstanding tomorrow’s forecasted snow)! We have a number of upcoming programs and events, and lots of needs for volunteers. Please read on for a summary and opportunities to get involved (or more involved)! J

Spring Outdoor Classroom Workday: Saturday, March 21, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

The workgroup team is intensively planning activities for Saturday’s workday, in order to get the Outdoor Classroom (OC) ready for spring programs. The list of jobs includes weeding, wheelbarrowing, amending soil, and turning over all the spaces for spring planting – including the raised beds, salad tables, the Three Sisters Garden and the Colonial gardens. We’ll be making watering cans and plant labels, and Lisa and David are working on a new activity: making a human sun dial! Tim Abrahams will again donate compost, and we’ll wheelbarrow that up into the OC and use it to amend soil. *We will need wheelbarrows for this job. If you can bring a wheelbarrow to the workday on Saturday, please do!*

PLEASE PLAN TO COME AND HELP AT THE SPRING WORKDAY!!!! Bring Shovels, spades, gloves and trowels, and extras if you have them to share, and LABEL EVERYTHING WITH YOUR NAME. We hope to see you there! SSL hours are available, and coffee and snacks are available while supplies last.

Nearing Final arrangements for Stage Construction

We are in negotiations with MCPS and their contractor, which has put a bid in for stage construction. The bid slightly exceeds the amount we are able to pay, but we hope that the contractor will be willing to donate some of its labor and fees to this volunteer project. Our hope is still for the stage to be built this spring or summer. If anyone is interested in the finer details of these discussions, please let me know.

Edible Garden Programs

The leaders of the edible garden programs are hard at work planning this year’s edibles programs – the K – 3 Salad Growing Program, the 4th grade Three Sisters Garden, the 5th Grade Colonial Garden and the SSIMS Green Team plantings. A call for volunteers to help with these programs will go out once the teachers’ schedules are finalized – please keep an eye on this space for that call for volunteers!

February 2015 Update

Posted on February 13, 2015 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

We’ve gone a long time without an update, so below is a brief review of where we stand on Outdoor Classroom programs.

1. Stage Construction

We have been working closely with MCPS to finalize details for the stage construction. MCPS is recruiting final bids for construction, and we expect to have the final revised bids in the next two weeks. MCPS is hopeful we will be able to begin construction of the stage this spring, possibly even beginning construction over spring break. Below is a diagram of the most recent schematic MCPS contractors are using. With the $25,000 grant we received from Westfield Mall, we will have in the neighborhood of $30,000 - $35,000 to spend on the stage; MCPS has cautioned us that this amount of money will buy a very basic structure, and the incoming bids will include options to lower costs.

2. Edible Gardens

Both SSIMS and Sligo Creek ES are set to do edible garden programs again this spring! The SSIMS Green Team will be growing vegetables and herbs as part of Audubon Naturalist Society’s GreenKids Salad Science Program – and they have already started some of their seeds indoors! At Sligo Creek, grades K – 3 will be growing salad ingredients like lettuces, spinach, carrots, peas, and radishes, and harvesting them to have “salad parties” supported by our local Whole Foods. Grade 4 will be growing a “Three Sisters” garden – a Native American planting technique for corn, beans, and squash; and Grade 5 will be growing a Colonial Garden, planting vegetables and herbs that would have been grown by early American colonists. The leaders of each of these programs (Jes Skillman and Margrit Wong for K – 3; Jes Skillman and Nichole Bennett for 4th; and Sandhya Mehta for 5th) will be recruiting volunteers to help with these springtime programs! If you know now that you’d like to help, please let me know.

3. Recruiting Volunteer Leaders

We are making a push this year to recruit volunteer leaders to lead Outdoor Classroom programs. Thank you to all of the people who have already volunteered! If you would like to be part of the leadership team for the Outdoor Classroom, please let me know. As part of the Leadership Team, you could either volunteer to take on leadership of a particular project (see chart below), or simply participate in the core decision making team for the Outdoor Classroom. Note that we will still send large decisions (like significant financial expenditures) around to the whole Committee before the decision is finalized.

4. Spring Workday – Saturday, March 14: Mark your Calendars!

We will hold our annual Outdoor Classroom Spring Workday on Saturday, March 14, from (exact times TBD) approximately 9:30 – 2 p.m. We’ll be weeding, amending soil and doing other jobs to get the Outdoor Classroom ready for the spring season!

That’s the update for now – I’ll do another update including fundraising in the near future. Thank you for your involvement in the SCES/SSIMS Outdoor Classroom!

October 2014 Update: Volunteers Needed!

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Volunteer Leader Needs

Before the updates, I am describing here some priority needs we have for the Outdoor Classroom programs. The continued growth and success of the Outdoor Classroom depends on recruiting additional volunteer leaders to take on pieces of the Outdoor Classroom work. Along with the chair(s) of the Outdoor Classroom Committee, these leaders will form the core planning and strategic leadership for the Outdoor Classroom. I’ve taken a stab at showing and describing below these volunteer leader positions, in addition to giving a rough idea of the time commitment for each position. Please take a look and let me know if you’d be willing to do any of these jobs (some of you have already indicated your interest and I or someone will get back to you in the next week or so to discuss). Thank you for considering contributing your time for these jobs!

Committee Chair, SSIMS: Committee Co-Chair from SSIMS

Edible Gardens Program Coordinator (10 hours/week during growing season): work with parents and teachers to schedule, train, and coordinate volunteers to assist in springtime planting programs. Schedule and organize salad parties for K – 3rd grade. Springtime planting programs currently include the following:

· K – 3 salad planting, thinning, and harvesting. Students plant lettuces, carrots, radishes, peas and water them for 6 weeks. Students harvest the salad fixings and Whole Foods Silver Spring supports “salad parties.”

· Fourth grade plants Native American “Three Sisters” gardens – corn, beans and squash. Lesson plan available.

· Fifth grade plants Colonial Kitchen garden. Lesson plan available.


Please note that a volunteer leader could choose to limit their responsibilities by working only with one grade.

Monarch Sister School Program Coordinator (unsure of time commitment; this is a new position): Work with (primarily) second grade teachers to develop the MSSP program, expand the habitat for monarchs on the school campuses, create learning opportunities for students.

Work Day Coordinator (5 hours/week, one week in September and one week in March or April only): work with school principals to schedule and organize Fall (usually September) and Spring (April) Outdoor Classroom Workdays.

Fundraising Coordinator (2 hours/week year-round): Work with Educational Foundation, PTA and other volunteers to identify grant and other fundraising opportunities for Outdoor Classroom and Outdoor Education programs. Work with volunteers to complete applications and any reporting requirements.

Stage Construction Coordinator (2-3 hours/week until project completion): work with Outdoor Classroom Committee Chairs and Design Workgroup to coordinate the process of stage construction in the Outdoor Classroom.

*And now for the exciting re-caps:*

Outdoor Classroom Awarded $25,000 from Westfield Malls!!

As the recipient of the Westfield Works Wonders grant program, the Outdoor Classroom was awarded $25,000 from Westfield Malls, which will be used to construct a stage. Principals Swift and Haas, and 5th grader Lucy Attis and 8th grader Aiswarya Suriaprakash, both of whom are leaders in their Green Teams, were on hand to receive the funding on behalf of our schools. On the night of the award, Westfield also hosted two dining fundraisers at Chipotle and Elevation Burger, which (combined) earned another $813 for the stage. In addition, the Westfield Mall in Annapolis has pledged to donate all the change from their fountain from the month of October to the Outdoor Classroom (they estimate this change could total $1,000 - $2,000).

The Tower Companies Beautify/Make SCES Campus More Sustainable

As part of their Green Apple Day of Service, The Tower Companies brought 30 employees to Sligo Creek ES to clear an overgrown area near the front drop-off circle, amend the soil and plant an all-native garden, which will reduce pollution going into Sligo Creek and provide habitat to migrating monarch butterflies. This project will support Sligo Creek’s participation in the Monarch Sister Schools Project, in which we pledged to help monarch populations by increasing their habitat. Tower Companies also weeded and mulched in the area by the drop-off circle. We are looking forward to partnering with them again next year on a new project!

Fall OC Workday

Families weeded the conservation landscape and colonial garden, cleared the salad beds and lined the conservation landscape paths with rocks. They mulched the gardens, watered newly-planted native perennials and beautified both campuses. In addition, students harvested three huge buckets full of carrots remaining from the spring planting program. The (many, many) carrots were washed and delivered to Shepherd’s Table, a local food bank, for preparation in meals there. SSIMS volunteers also hosted a SSIMS Beautification Day in coordination with the OC Workday, so we got a lot of Beautifying done!