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Story Submission

Submitted By

Ashley Parsons

Beaverton, OR, United States


We encourage our students to get outside and play every day, rain or shine. Research shows how important it is for children to have access to natural environments in order for them to use their creative minds to explore and discover. We are working to turn our playground into a natural space that will proved food and shelter to local birds and insects as well as an interactive playscape for our students.


Habitat Helpers

Award Winning Entry: Pennington Habitat Hero

Get Out and Play Today

The German American School of Portland (GSP) is a Pre-K through 5th grade elementary school dedicated to enriching the lives of more than 160 students, their parents and teachers through multi-cultural interactions. We are located in the heart of Beaverton, Oregon less than a mile from the Beaverton Wetlands and the Tualatin Hills Nature Park. Our students represent more than 20 nationalities and many students are able to speak more than just English and German.

GSP is a participating Green School with the Portland Metro Department, focusing our efforts on reducing our waste, reusing materials, and recycling. The environment is very important to many of our staff, students, and parents. GSP has its own organic fruit, vegetable and herb garden, which the entire community works together on the care and maintenance of the plants.

In the After-School Program, students have focused their education on local habitats and ecosystems, local birds, and learning about the ways we can make a positive impact on the environment. Over the last couple of years the After-School Program has studied the birds, finding out that our schoolyard birds prefer to eat sunflower seed and spend most of their time in the tops of our neighboring oak trees. During these studies the students created a schoolyard bird guide specific to the birds we see in and around our playground. The students have also created multiple environmental education boxes; one for birds, one for habitats, and one for nature exploration.

Every year the school hosts a Playground Cleanup around Earth Day, which focuses on getting our entire school community together to bring new life to our playground. During this time we get our gardens ready for the spring season, add sand to our sandboxes, and usually have a project focus. Last year a group of parents got together and built the school a couple of large and beautiful planter boxes. This year we want to focus our efforts of the Playground Cleanup to turn these new planter boxes into a bird and insect garden. We will be using the grant to purchase native plants that attracts birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. We are currently gathering recycled wood to build bird houses and bird feeders to place around the playground, we will also include a carpenter bee starter house.

The German American School of Portland is also focusing our efforts this year to add outdoor classroom elements to our playground. We are looking to add a natural wood building area so students can build forts or teepees. We are looking to appeal to the social life of our older students by creating a natural hangout area as well as appease the creative minds of our younger students with the outdoor classroom equipped with natural seating areas, blackboards, and other interactive components. The GSP community strives to get our students and their families outside enjoying the opportunities nature presents us on a daily bases.

: The educational Habitat Box, created by the Extended-Care students. It holds many items that can be used to help educate others about local habitats and wildlife.

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