GS Hosts Environmental Speaker and Expands Sustainable Gardens on Campus
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
George School’s all-school assembly on Friday, April 3, 2009, will feature a presentation entitled “Conservation of Biodiversity” by guest speaker Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. The assembly will take place at George School from 9:50 to 10:50 a.m. in Walton Center Auditorium.
The author of sixty-nine research articles and the book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, Doug teaches courses about conservation of tropical ecosystems, debates in conservation biology, behavioral ecology, and insect taxonomy. His assembly will explain how native plants support diverse species of plants and animals. “With as many as thirty-three thousand species imperiled in the United States, it is clear that we must change our approach to gardening and landscaping if we hope to share the spaces in which we live and work with other living things,” said Doug.
Gardening is a timely topic at George School. Excavation has begun on the first two of six new rain gardens that will be installed around the school’s green learning commons and Mollie Dodd Anderson Library—a new academic building that is currently under construction on campus. Totaling 14,514 square feet, the six rain gardens will reduce stormwater runoff, helping to protect local lakes and streams from flooding, erosion, and pollution.
When the new rain gardens are completed, George School will have a total of nine gardens on its grounds. Two small rain gardens were completed in spring of 2008 as a separate project near Retford, another academic building. In addition, an on-campus kitchen garden has been providing organic vegetables and herbs for the school’s dining room since 2006. First Lady Michelle Obama recently broke ground on an organic kitchen garden at the White House—the first working food garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since World War II. Seen as a source of healthy, affordable food, organic kitchen gardens are part of a recent trend, with the National Gardening Association reporting a 19 percent increase in gardening in 2009.
Rain gardens—composed of native plants and loose, absorbent soil—capture stormwater from roofs and driveways and allow it to release slowly into the ground, where it is taken up by the plant roots and released back into the atmosphere. A vegetative roof designed to absorb approximately 75 percent of rainwater will be installed on the library portion of George School’s new academic facility. The remaining rainwater will flow through gutters to the six surrounding rain gardens, which are expected to be finished by the end of May 2009.
The building, scheduled to open in fall 2009, is designed to earn gold-level certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Landscape architecture for the site, including the six rain gardens, has been designed by Viridian Landscape Studio of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bowie Gridley Architects of Washington DC designed the building itself, while building and construction are being managed by W.S. Cumby of Springfield, Pennsylvania.
At George School’s kitchen garden, students recently helped the school’s gardener, Kate Smith-Ducati, to prepare for and plant spring crops. Together they constructed forty-nine new raised beds made of red oak wood from downed trees on George School’s campus, and planted spring crops in a total of sixty raised beds. Filled with soil and compost from George School’s on-campus composting program, the raised beds will allow seeds to germinate and grow more quickly than they would if they were planted in the ground.
Spring crops include head lettuce, spring onions, Swiss chard, collard greens, radishes, turnips, beets, fava beans, marjoram, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, lemon balm, garlic, and lemongrass. In addition, a new patch of strawberries brings fruit to the garden for the first time.
Among the students who helped with the garden were members of George School science classes, and students who work at the garden through the school’s on-campus service program. Known as “co-op,” the program requires every George School student to perform a job on campus for 60 to 90 minutes per week each year.