The SSA Farm is an Academy-wide sustainability initiative, with plots located at each of the three campuses. In June 2012, the SSA Farm was officially born when student, faculty and parent volunteers planted a 40’ x 100’ vegetable garden on the far fields of the Senior School campus in Fox Chapel. In spring 2013, the farm expanded to include gardens on both the Middle and Junior School campuses as well.
Goals of the SSA Farm
- Sustainability – To provide fresh produce to the dining halls on all three SSA campuses, and to patrons of the weekly Fox Chapel Farmers Market
- Experiential Learning – To provide a unique, hands-on learning experience for students in multiple disciplines, including science and economics
- Leadership – To provide a leadership opportunity for Senior School students, and to encourage mentoring of younger students
- Community – To create a community of volunteers with common interests that spans the entire SSA community: students, parents, faculty and staff
In the spring and fall terms, Senior School students may choose PE Farm as their athletics option and earn academic credit for working on the farm. Tasks include planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and maintenance of farm structures, as well as working at the SSA Farm stand at the weekly Fox Chapel Farmers Market in the summer. Volunteers tend to the garden over the summer.
- Environmental science students complete a unit on the farm, which includes soil testing, integrated pest management and plant selection
- Biology students create informational pages on types of plants grown at farm
- In fall 2012, architecture students designed a storage shed/outdoor classroom incorporating “green” building elements
The Middle School garden includes eight raised beds on the school's 35-acre campus in Fox Chapel. In the spring term, students can choose Gardening for their atheltic/activity option and earn academic credit for working in the garden each afternoon. In the fall, the student Harvest Committee cares for the garden. Tasks for both groups include planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and general garden maintenance.Volunteers tend the garden in the summer.
In 2014, the Middle School garden won a $2,000 School Garden Grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to fund enhancements to the garden, including the addition of gutters to the garden sheds to enable the use of rain barrels and the installation of cold frames to keep the garden growing through the winter. Read more about the MS garden in The Herald.
- Eighth grade science students analyzed soil chemistry before and after cover crops were planted to learn the effects of restorative cover cropping.
- Seventh grade science students planted perennials to attract butterflies, adding Tickle Me plants to observe plant reactions.
- Social studies students used beets from the garden to make hommade borscht as part of a world cultures lesson.
The Junior School garden is a small circular permaculture bed located in front of the pre-kindergarten building on the school's seven-acre campus in Point Breeze. In the spring and fall, students have an opportunity to use some of their recess time to help tend the garden. Parent, student and faculty volunteers tend the plot during the summer months.
- Fifth grade math students helped to plan the design of the garden in spring 2013
- Third grade students did presentations on various types of plants to grow in the garden, and the student body voted on which type of corn, bean and pumpkin to plant
- Spanish classes used marigolds as part of their Day of the Dead celebration