A chunk of land at the far end of the SS. Robert & William Parish campus may not look like much right now, but the school community hopes it will become a productive parcel very soon.
The land, which currently houses trash receptacles, will become home to a new, cedar-sided greenhouse that will be operated by SS. Robert & William School students. Martha Dodd, principal, and Angela Casey, director of school operations, said funds from this year’s #weGiveCatholic campaign will be earmarked for the greenhouse project.
Dodd said the school is involved with project-based learning, which encourages students to get involved with various projects including figuring out how to make them work and problem solving. The projects mesh together to encourage better use of the land, which complements Pope Francis’ Laudato Si and Laudate Deum exhortations on protecting the environment. It also incorporates the schools STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.
The greenhouse project evolved from an outdoor classroom, a project-based learning collaboration that began last year with TelPi. Students were connected with a construction management company, Pettiti Garden Center and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District as the project grew.
Behind the former convent, now home to the Guardian Angels Early Learning Center, is a small, fenced-in play area for the children in the child care program, 6 weeks to age 4.
Sixth-graders helped design the outdoor classroom, which is adjacent to the playground. It features a platform where a teacher or speaker can stand and face students who sit on tree stumps arranged around the slightly raised pad.
Another part of the project currently under construction is an outdoor rosary. Walking stones are placed in gravel to resemble a rosary and the school custodian plans to build a wooden cross to place at the front of the rosary. Casey said Stations of the Cross will be hung on the fence that separates the parish property from nearby homes.
“This will be a quiet, prayerful place,” she said, noting families and students could use it.
Students were interested in a koi pond, so Casey said Dodd charged them with problem-solving to figure out how to keep the fish alive through the cold Northeast Ohio winter. The pond also is under construction.
In another area, third-graders worked with Pettiti’s to plant a small garden that attracts butterflies.
Funds from the annual walk-a-thon raised $20,000 for this part of the project, but the greenhouse will require additional fundraising. Dodd said the price tag would be about $40,000. Plans are to purchase a build-your-own kit for a cedar-sided greenhouse that will be about 30 feet long and 12 feet wide. A new concrete pad will be poured and the trash receptacles will be relocated on the parish property. Dodd said there will be a walking path around the greenhouse, which will have electricity and plumbing.
“We hope to grow crops year round and possibly even have a small farmers market,” Dodd said. Some of the produce could be used for the parish Labre Ministry and for community meals.
“This is a nice way to get students and families involved,” she added.
They hope to raise $40,000 through the schools 2023 #weGiveCatholic campaign, an online day of Catholic giving on Nov. 28.
More than 200 entities, including parishes, schools and Catholic nonprofits throughout the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland are participating in #weGiveCatholic. Early donations will be accepted beginning Nov. 19.
Learn more about #weGiveCatholic here.