The goal of the environmental education program is to teach how natural environments function and how humans can connect to their environment in ways that create a more sustainable ecosystem. We want to increase our understanding on its interconnection and demonstrate how to connect and care for the world that sustains us.
An integral component of the Environmental Education curriculum is the Paramount School Farm. The farm provides hands-on visual learning for students and is an important tool for teachers. The environmental education team aims to introduce environmental topics and natural subject matter applicable to each grade level. Whether through gardening or through interacting with our chickens, our students can see their classroom lessons played out in real life. Students have the opportunity to partake in various programs offered on our school farm.
Student participants have the opportunity to care for the dairy goats on Paramount’s farm. The importance of responsibility is learned through milking the goats on a daily basis and tending to their everyday needs. The milk from our goats is used to for onsite cheese making. Our cheese is sold at four different artisan markets through the city of Indianapolis. Students gain a sense of accountability and earn a respect for nature and animals.
Summer mentoring program that allows chosen students to continue to connect to the natural world, even when school is not in session. Participants take on various tasks around the farm, with the majority of the focus on our food garden. The ability for students to sow seeds, nurture their plants to maturity, and harvest food for sale at our on-site market is an invaluable lesson in patience and cause and effect. This experience gives students a better understanding of where food comes from along with a respect for the hard work involved in sustainable food production. It also provides a wonderful opportunity for learning how pollination works and how ecosystems are dependent on one another.
Select students will the learn the art of beekeeping in our four-hive apiary. Participants become apprentice beekeepers and learn how to manage a hive, and harvest honey in the fall, which will be available at our weekly farmers market held at the school. The incredible world of honeybees will also be integrated into the classroom curriculum at various grade levels.
Paramount Brookside has a 5.5-acre campus that includes a “working farm”. The Brookside Farm is an integral part of the school’s STEM curriculum and offers Paramount students access to a multitude of unique learning opportunities. It serves as an outdoor learning classroom for students throughout the school year and hosts Paramount’s summer STEAM (Success Through Education Agriculture and Mentoring) program. The available land enables multi-disciplinary practices in urban agriculture. The Farm Team consists of a staff of two full-time employees to support content instruction, extracurricular groups, community initiatives and maintain farm operations for the 1.5-acre farm in addition to general site stewardship and management.
The Brookside Farm has over 2,500 square feet of no-till raised garden beds, a varietal orchard, a native pollinator garden, a 30×50 foot greenhouse, and a Learning Garden. Farm assets include a 2,200-gallon water cistern system, an outdoor classroom, composting bins, a shipping container barn, a chicken coop housing a flock of layers, a dairy goat barn, a bee apiary, and a tasting lab/kitchen. The licensed dairy operation is the basis for Paramount’s artisan cheese enterprise.
Connections to the farm start in the classroom, where teachers know their content best. When a learning goal can be supported through an experience on the farm, teachers coordinate with their grade-level team and school leadership to ensure the fidelity of the lesson. Once the plan has been established, the Farm Team works with classes to meet their learning outcomes through a safe and meaningful experience.