Bellewood Gardens | Photo by Melissa Chipman
Bellewood Garden | Photo by Melissa Chipman

It was a gray day last week when Insider toured the new teaching garden at Uspiritus. The state-of-the-art outdoor classroom will be used by all students at the Uspiritus-Bellewood elementary school in their horticulture classes, which the kids take on average three times a week.

Uspiritus was founded in 2012 when the Bellewood Home for Children and Brooklawn Child & Family Services merged. The nonprofit offers services including therapeutic foster care, a family preservation program and residential treatment.

In the background: the pizza garden and bean teepee | Photo by Melissa Chipman
In the background: the pizza garden and bean teepee | Photo by Melissa Chipman

The outdoor classroom features a “pizza garden” — pie slice-shaped gardens in a circle, all of which contain plants that can be pizza toppings, like peppers, basil and tomatoes. A large section of the area will be a traditional row garden with fruits and vegetables. The only non-edible plants in the garden are in a small area with a trellis and a bench that is set aside as a butterfly garden.

There are several metal worktables in the garden, sinks and a classroom area with large and small chalkboards.

The garden was chosen to be part of First Lady Jane Beshear’s Commonwealth Gardens program. Now in its second year, the program provides vegetable and fruit seeds, signage, in-person training and online support. Applicants must be creating gardens for demonstration or education and prove that their efforts are focused on “fresh produce, locally grown food, healthy eating and active outdoor living.”

Butterfly garden | Photo by Melissa Chipman
Butterfly garden | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Also in the process of being installed are connected birdhouses and weather stations provided by AT&T. Students inside the school will be able to watch the birds via a video monitor. The technology also will be available to Uspiritus’s Brooklawn campus, which houses middle and high school students.

Students at the school will eat what they grow. Vegetables also will be donated to Eastern Area Community Ministries and Portland Avenue Community Trust.

Outdoor classroom | Photo by Melissa Chipman
Outdoor classroom | Photo by Melissa Chipman

The new garden was made possible by grants from the UPS Foundation and AT&T Pioneers.

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