PARTNERS IN OUR SCHOOLS: Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School Plants Sustainability Lessons With Help from P&W Green Power Grant

PARTNERS IN OUR SCHOOLS: Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School Plants Sustainability Lessons With Help from P&W Green Power Grant

Published on May 17, 2016

Even dreary weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of volunteers who cheered as a big dump truck filled with donated topsoil pulled onto the property of the Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School in Hartford on May 7.  “That’s our dirt,” one of the volunteers said with a smile.

The group was gathered to assemble and prepare curriculum gardens, funded with a Green Power Grant from Pratt & Whitney.  Jennifer Quinn, P&W module centers and operations international trade compliance manager, applied for the grant on behalf of the school’s more than 350 students, one of whom is her son, Evan, a first-grader.

“Being part of something bigger than you are and watching seedlings transform into plants and food is something that makes an impression,” she said.  “These gardens represent alternate ways to learn, they will get the kids outside and encourage a real connection to the environment; all of which are good things.”

Quinn and her husband, who also works at P&W, saw early signs that their son was a hands-on learner.  Although they live in Wethersfield, they decided on Annie Fisher STEM School because it offered the intimacy of a small school, cultural and socio-economic diversity and the kinds of projects that would pique Evan’s interest. “We’ve been really impressed,” she said.

For Quinn, the curriculum gardens take P&W’s commitment to developing and growing young talent one step further.  “By encouraging kids to invest in the community and really connect with the environment, we are giving them skills they can take with them for life,” she said. “It’s important to know where food comes from . . . it doesn’t just magically appear at the supermarket.”

Later this year, the gardens will be dedicated to the school’s former principal, Victoria Morse, who died suddenly in 2014.  “Ms. Morse had a special gift for seeing what the children needed,” Quinn said.  “My son was not quite five when he attended Kindergarten orientation.  The first day was exciting, the second was tougher and by the third day, he was having a tough time.  Ms. Morse picked him up and hugged him, making us both feel better.  These gardens will provide a constant reminder of Ms. Morse’s love for the children and the outdoors.”

The school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is soliciting donations of flower, vegetable and herb plants as well as kid-sized garden tools and gloves.  “This is really just the beginning,” said parent and PTO member Lisa-Marie Fontano.  “With help from the community, we’ve started this project that can grow and have a big impact on the kids.”

For Stacy Wirzulis, another parent and PTO member, the beauty of the garden project is that teachers can use it in any lesson plans.  “The gardens offer unique opportunities for learning,” she said.  “Lessons could range from math and science to English and art; the possibilities are limitless.”  Planting is slated to begin as part of the summer school curriculum.

Written by Karen Cohen, writer for Pratt & Whitney.

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