Slate School's Nature Conservancy
Slate School is a leader in environmental stewardship. In addition to the school buildings themselves which are among the most environmentally-friendly in the country, Slate School also created and maintains the school grounds as a nature conservancy. Representing several native Connecticut habitats, the grounds are free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and invasive plant species.
Maintaining and Enhancing the Property
During the construction of Slate School, 23 of the 25 acres have been purposely left undeveloped. A residential building stood on the property from 1981 until 2012 and, in an effort to leave as much of the additional property undisturbed, Slate School has been constructed in that same location.
Slate School's sense of community extends to the natural world that we inhabit, and is exemplified by the considerations taken to preserve the native ecosystem. Significant areas of the property were previously overtaken by dense masses of invasive plants such as Bamboo, Multiflora Rose, and Autumn Olive, which spread pervasively and have harmful environmental impacts. The removal along the front of the school grounds was the only clearing done on the property and amounted to just 0.13 acres total, and eliminating the invasive species is a significant benefit to the meadows. To replace the destructive mass of invasive plants, Slate School planted native trees, shrubs, and ground cover.
The predominant habitat present at Slate School is meadowland, an essential but diminishing ecosystem for many forms of wildlife, including birds and pollinators. Slate School's meadows are left undisturbed except for select maintained pathways and gathering spaces, where the opportunity to be a sanctuary for wildlife and joyful learning about nature for the students of Slate School go hand in hand. Other features of the landscape include a stream corridor, wetlands, and woodlands.
Slate School's campus is abundant with plants that are valuable sources of food for pollinators, such as joe pye weed, bergamot, and clover. The presence of dogwoods and serviceberry trees, high and low-bush blueberry, and raspberry bushes provide berries for birds and other wildlife at different times of the year. These, along with productive apple trees, are an important resource for students to learn about the edible properties of local plant species.
Educational Opportunities at Slate School's Nature Conservancy
The schoolyard and the school grounds are an extension of the classroom, where the nature conservancy functions as a means for exceptional hands-on and curiosity-based learning. Not only are students able to learn about the different types of trees and plants present, but also how they relate to each other and the other forms of life that rely on these habitats. Ecosystem studies, biology, ornithology, weather and climate science and more are at our fingertips, where students can engage with their curiosities about the natural world in a tangible and relatable way through scientific observation and experimentation, artwork and writing projects, and creative play.
The nature conservatory provides more than academic opportunities. Slate School's students share in the responsibility to maintain and preserve their school grounds, and become good stewards of the land. It is through this relationship with the landscape that they inhabit daily, and by treating it with the utmost respect and care, that Slate School's students fully become compassionate citizens of the Earth and continue to treat the natural world as a close and personal friend.