SSA Farm

SSA FarmThe SSA Farm is an Academy-wide sustainability initiative, with garden plots located at all four Shady Side Academy campuses. The SSA Farm was born on the far fields of the Senior School campus in 2012, and expanded to include gardens on the Middle and Junior School campuses in 2013 and the Country Day School campus in 2016. The farm is integrated into the curriculum and student life in grades PK-12.

Goals of the SSA Farm

  • Sustainability – To provide fresh produce to the dining halls, and to patrons of the weekly on-campus 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

SSA Farm Facts

  • 600 pounds of vegetables are harvested annually from the SSA Farm plots on all four campuses.
  • 75% of the summer harvest is sold at the Fox Chapel Farmers Market; the rest is used by the cafeteria for summer camps.
  • 70% of the fall harvest is used by the school cafeterias; the rest is sold at the Farmers Market.

The Fields of Learning at SSA

Nov. 10, 2016 Faculty Blog Post by Gianna Fazioli

SSA Farm Students, Fall 2016As the Shady Side Academy farm season comes to a close, I am left with feelings of rejuvenation, gratitude and excitement. Thinking back to the opening school days when I had just started as the SSA Farm director, I recall how I expressed that the farms are each dynamic educational resources within the Academy. I referred to them as fields of learning. Taking what I knew about Shady Side, I began envisioning how the farms could become living laboratories through an integration not just within the sciences or into our cafeterias, but across the entire academy. And now, as I watch the PE farm students harvest the final heads of cabbage from these fields and the leaves fall down around us, I know there is so much more we will reap from the curriculum that I sow in the semesters to come.

The SSA Farm curriculum provides interdisciplinary, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for all students.

Learn more about the farm and the curricular connections at each campus:

Senior School

Selling Produce at the Farmers MarketThe Senior School community maintains a 40' x 100' garden on the far fields of its Fox Chapel campus.

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • In the spring and fall terms, students may choose PE Farm as their athletics option and earn course credit for working on the farm. Through planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and maintenance, as well as working at the SSA Farm stand at the Fox Chapel Farmers Market, students learn local food production and marketing skills.
  • Students have the opportunity to serve as managers of the Farm and the Farmers Market each summer
  • Environmental science students examine mycology and the effects mushrooms have on bioremediation as well as human health
  • In the spring, health students learn about the story of where their food comes from, nutrient density in local and whole foods and food access by looking at locally grown foods on campus

Middle School

Middle School GardenThe Middle School garden includes eight raised beds on the school's 35-acre campus in Fox Chapel. In the spring term, students can choose Farm for their athletic/activity option and earn course credit for working in the garden each afternoon. In the fall, a 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 won a $2,000 School Garden Grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to fund enhancements to the garden, including gutters for the garden sheds to enable the use of rain barrels and the installation of cold frames to keep the garden growing in the winter.

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • Sixth and seventh graders study the role of decomposers and pollinators play in our food system through demonstrations in vermicomposting, the Middle School farm's sustainable growing practices and our pollinator garden
  • Seventh graders learn the concepts of ecological restoration, plant genetics and biodiversity as they plant American Chestnut seeds in our greenhouse
  • The Science Olympiad team restored a native and endangered species of ginseng through a planting project on campus

Junior School

Junior School ChickensThe Junior School garden includes five raised beds on the school's seven-acre campus in Point Breeze. In the spring and fall, students have an opportunity to help tend the garden during recess. Volunteers tend the garden during the summer. Several egg-laying hens also reside on campus, and students help to care for them by assisting with feeding, watering and egg collection.

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • Pre-kindergarten students harvest fresh food from their garden beds for weekly cooking lessons
  • Kindergarten science integrates a farm-to-table curriculum utilizing our edible schoolyard. Class topics include the plant life cycle, beneficial insects, animal biology, nutrient cycling and taking food from seed to plate.
  • Second graders examine growing fresh, whole foods and eliminating food waste
  • All students have the opporunitiy to help tend the garden beds and care for our schoolyard egg-laying hens and in turn they learn ecological and biological principles
  • Fifth grade math students helped to plan the design of the garden in the spring of 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.

Country Day School

CDS gardenA gift from the fifth grade class of 2016, the outdoor garden was created to grow plants and flowers in a controlled area.

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • Throughout the spring and fall, students plant, maintain, harvest and cook crops from their raised bed garden.
  • In conjunction with science class, students learn about biology of pollinators through explorations in their raised bed garden and at the Senior School farm.
  • Students also visit the Senior School farm and learn about how chickens provide nutrients and pest control to the farm.
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