The Nature Program at Germantown Academy helps the community to know and appreciate the environment, to understand why it should be protected, and to encourage teachers to explore the campus' abundant natural resources with their students.
Farm to Table
In 2017, Lower School Science Teacher Lisa Martin piloted an interdisciplinary unit that gives students the chance to get their hands dirty in the Community Gardens. Mixing science, social studies, and health and wellness showed students the importance of knowing where their food comes from.
"It is well-documented that elementary school children are more willing to eat vegetables after they have grown them in a school-based gardening program," Martin explained. "This is becoming a reality for some of the youngest members of the GA community."
Chef Luke Landmesser is thrilled that GA is embracing the farm-to-table movement, and eagerly incorporates vegetables like swiss chard, kale, leeks, eggplant, and tomatoes into his weekly menus. Follow him on Instagram @ga_chef_luke to see the creative ways he cooks up food grown right here on campus!
A staple of the Lower School curriculum, students love exploring the natural areas on campus. Whether it's jumping in a pile of leaves, hunting for tadpoles in the creek, or sketching a butterfly in the meadow, our youngest learners experience it all. Even parents get in on the fun once in a while!
Upper School courses like AP Environmental Science and Marine Biology utilize the natural resources on campus to conduct studies on wetland health, biodiversity, and pollution control.
Art students in all divisions take inspiration from the natural beauty throughout campus. Drawing students recreate landscapes, sculpture students make molds of cattails, and the Art Across the Academy program incorporates natural spaces into their exhibitions.
This After School Activity Program led by Kindergarten Teachers Craig Newberger 1760 and Peter Waxler is a favorite for 4th and 5th Grade students. Each fall and spring, Mr. Newberger and Mr. Waxler lead on- and off-campus field trips once a week to local environments like Fort Washington State Park, Briar Bush Nature Center, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, and the Wissahickon Gorge.
Each division (Lower, Middle, and Upper School) has a Green Ambassadors group, where students and faculty volunteer their time to maintain the grounds with weeding, planting, and cleanup. Green Ambassadors also act as tour guides on the public Preserve Day in the fall. The related Environmental Awareness group (GAEA) in the Upper School focuses on earth-conscious initiatives like reusable water bottles and composting.
Preserve Day is an annual event held in October that celebrates GA's outdoor spaces. Led by Nature Program faculty and the Parents' Preserve Day Committee, Preserve Day is a free, public event with a variety of activities for families to enjoy.
The Adventure Course
The Adventure Course opened in the spring of 2016 as an expansion of ropes elements already in place throughout the woods adjacent to the Wissahickon Creek, and is used during GA Summer Camp, Physical Education classes, student orientations, and Preserve Day. Featuring high ropes obstacles, a zip line, and a giant swing, plus low ropes and balance obstacles, this exhilarating challenge-by-choice course is a great way to have fun and build camaraderie in a natural setting.
Built during the 2010-11 school year, Germantown Academy's Alter Middle School and McNeil Upper School complex was the first building in Whitemarsh Township to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, earning a "Gold Rating."
Under the direction of Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT), an integrated design firm of architects, landscape architects and planners, we incorporated sustainable design features such as a rain water harvesting system, solar panel infrastructure, and a green roof, all of which visibly demonstrate the value of sustainable design practices to our students every day.
"LEED Certification identifies Germantown Academy as a showcase example of sustainable design. Not only are we positively impacting the environment with this plan, but we are giving the school and its students an opportunity to interact directly with nature," said Maarten Pesch, AIA, LEED AP, Principal at WRT and project lead architect.