Happy and learning environmental education at seaton – hillrag

“It’s good for shade, sitting with friends and talking or play games. Or you can sit by yourself and write something personal in your diary,” said eight-year-old Gabby while talking about her experiences in the River Garden at Seaton Elementary School (1503 Tenth St. NW), a District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) school that serves pre-K3 to fifth grade in the Shaw neighborhood.

The two gardens are a central part of the school’s environmental education, which teaches students to care for the earth, the city and themselves. “We’re one of DC’s healthiest schools,” Peters said. In fact, Seaton Elementary is one of America’s healthiest schools, recognized with gold status in 2016 by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

The gardens are visible through the windows of her office.


The oldest, a school garden that grows vegetables, trees and flowers has been on school grounds longer than anyone in the building can recall — probably more than twenty years. The newest addition to the school grounds is a river garden installed through the District Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) River Smart Grant Program , was put in just last summer and has already become favorite student hangout.

by developing child-centered green spaces. The non-profit provides a food corps volunteer who uses the ‘Nature Works Everywhere’ curriculum. The curriculum focuses on teaching students to care for the environment and building sustainability and connections between themselves and the environment through lessons in recycling. City Blossoms also leads garden work and provides lessons outdoors in warm weather and indoors in the winter.

Second grade Seaton students Sophia and Gabby say that they learn a lot in the garden, where they plant and nourish flowers, fruits and vegetables. They grow food such as strawberries, tomatoes and onions, which they sometimes snack on and sometimes take home. Gabby said when she brought onions home and her mother made cabbage soup with them.

They also learn about nature. “There are worms in the digging bed,” said Gabby, “and when you scream and you’re holding the worms they can hear you even though they don’t have ears, but they can hear the vibrations and they sometimes get scared.” Sophia said that when a worm died, they named it Wormy and had a funeral for it, burying it under a tree in the garden.

The river garden is a place where students can appreciate nature, said Peters. It provides permeable land, providing an area to filter the pollution from rain water before it flows back into the river. It also provides an environment for new insects on the school grounds, in addition to helping to keep the river clean. Sophia and Gabby say it is a great place to sit in the shade and talk with friends, playing games. Sometimes they meditate there, or write in their journals.

Sophia and Gabby took part in the AWS program last year, in grade two. The program focuses on pollinators, a cornerstone of the DCPS grade two science curriculum. During the three-part AWS program, students first take a tour of the Anacostia River on one of the AWS boats. They then spend some time in the classroom, nurturing and learning about plants native to the area. A few weeks later, they return to the river to plant what they have grown, and to build a beehive that they can then take home with them. Seaton Elementary School students take the AWS pontoon boat tour. The tour is the first of three parts in projects centered on learning about and reclaiming the health of the Anacostia River. Photo: Courtesy AWS

The students learn about the wildlife and about the river and its relationship to the school yard, and to themselves. Sophia said that they learned about the liter they saw along the river, and how it could make the heron that splashed them on the tour sick, as well as the relationship between litter and the health of both the river and the earth.