Concordia Lutheran High School

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The busy peace of the OCC

I have two classrooms. One is fairly standard: tables, chairs, whiteboard, lab stations, lights, fans, and wifi. The other has trees. Lots and lots of trees – not to mention a greenhouse, pond, raised vegetable beds, and the occasional groundhog. This second classroom is the four acres of old-growth forest to the north of the parking lot. It is the Our Creator’s Classroom, the OCC.

It’s a peaceful and busy place all at once.

Multiple times a year my environmental science students get to share what they’ve just learned with grade school classes as they lead them along the OCC’s wooded trails. My students benefit from being able to present their knowledge in a different way than they would in my other classroom. Grade school classes benefit from having these “big kids” engage with them.

Last Spring, we planted our raised vegetable gardens with the help of clients from Bethesda Lutheran Communities, an organization that serves adults with disabilities. Volunteers from my classes led hands-on tutorials so that the Bethesda clients would gain experience and be able to plant their own gardens at the Vance Center and at their own homes.

While the forested space allows my classes to investigate the impact of things like invasive species, the greenhouse allows us to study the growth of plants during the winter (especially helpful since the school year is the opposite of the growing season). Inside the greenhouse this September, we will also be having a free plant swap for anyone interested in freshening their home’s landscape with new perennials. Feel free to join us between 3:10 and 6 p.m. on Sept. 18.

Other classes benefit from the space as well. Art classes visit to gather materials or inspiration. English classes turn the scenery into poetry. Video productions students use the space as the set for various storylines. The Spanish classes are currently teaming with the environmental science classes to install a pollinator garden – significant for them because of the monarch butterfly’s magnificent migration to and from Mexico – in the stretch by Anthony Boulevard where it will be able to expand and grow more nectar rich year after year.

So when you drive by, give that wooly wilderness a smile – there’s a lot going on there.

Laura Bohnke,
Environmental Science Teacher