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The front lawn of Oak Ridge School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences in Eagan will look significantly greener come fall with the recent groundbreaking of multiple educational gardens.

Students from Mark Fehlandt’s first-grade class and Liz Schroeder’s third-grade class cheered on Oak Ridge staff as they put shovel to dirt June 5, officially kicking off the summer-long planting. After being designated a magnet school in 2015, the school began brainstorming ways to put more environmental themes into practice. And a year later, they were awarded a generous grant from the Magnet Schools Assistance Program to further their efforts in developing outdoor learning spaces.

With the help of an Oak Ridge parent, who happened to be a landscape architect, the school partnered with the city of Eagan and began planting the design seeds.

“Our goal is to have an interactive, living classroom,” Schroeder said. “This will be an opportunity for a new kid of learning, which will teach our students all about our school themes of joy, empathy and critical thinking and how those relate to nature and the environment.”

The gardens will encompass a large portion of the school’s front entrance, as well as stretch back into the adjacent woods to offer a variety of learning opportunities and sensory experiences. In the gardens will be native Minnesota greenery, pollinator plants and foliage to support bird, insect and wildlife habitats. Schroeder said some of the gardens will be built in a way that students can learn about the watershed and study the water system. Other gardens will be planted with sensory plants.

“All of these gardens will have a purpose,” Schroeder said. “Whether it’s finding enjoyment in the sensory garden or a butterfly garden, or learning about pollinators or shade plants, this will be an opportunity for students to be outdoors learning more about how and why these plants are important.”

The city of Eagan is donating the plants for the garden, and construction is expected to be complete in early fall.

“We are looking forward to coming back this fall where Oak Ridge will continue to be a leader in green learning,” said incoming Principal Dr. Cathy Kindem.

View photos below from the groundbreaking ceremony.

Oak Ridge garden groundbreaking

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