Corbett Prep School Garden Lays Groundwork
for Experiential Learning
The Corbett Prep school garden is back with a former student and teacher at the helm.
Feb. 5, 2015 (TAMPA, Fla.) – To Will Chorvat, the Independent Day School garden was a place to learn science through hands-on experience.
He and his friends in the Garden Club spent afternoons there under the guidance of teacher Judy Sobel, watching caterpillars turn into butterflies, mixing up earth-friendly insect sprays and learning about the produce they planted.
“Some of my best elementary school memories were made in that garden,” said Chorvat, who graduated from IDS (now Corbett Preparatory School of IDS) in 2006. “I really appreciated where our food came from, as well as the ability of nature to sustain life. I felt pretty independent when I was able to grow the food that I would eat.”
His interest in science led him to an environmental science degree from the University of Central Florida. Now, he is back at Corbett Prep preparing to fulfill his dream to become a teacher, and the garden — which had gone dormant — is beginning to sprout again. The new Garden Club started meeting last month, this time with Sobel and Chorvat working together.
Support from a Corbett Prep family put the school garden back on its feet. Parent Rob Henning had noticed the empty space near the drama classroom and saw its potential for students of all ages. He collaborated with Green Dreams, a sustainable solutions landscaping company, to build wooden planters and bring in material to prepare the garden for its first crops. Green Dreams enjoyed the project so much that employees returned to donate their time and teach the Garden Club’s first lesson.
The Garden Club meets after school, and students are busy digging, exploring and problem solving during their sessions. When peacocks and squirrels ate many of the initial crops, the club brainstormed solutions, experimenting with scarecrows and metallic ribbons to scare away animal visitors safely. Students discuss native and invasive plants, snack on the bananas growing overhead and enjoy spending time outside in the dirt and fresh air.
“They associate gardening with fun, so the learning is fun,” Henning said.
Sobel said gardening provides a great framework for experiential learning that gives students an active role in what and how they learn.
“I always think of the garden as a living science lab,” she said.
A Corbett Prep teacher for 27 years, Sobel used to introduce students to the school garden through the club and as a part of their classes. It provided a springboard for discussions on science, math and international cultures. Students developed a sense of responsibility when they had jobs in the school garden and learned to apply critical thinking skills to plan for the future and to tackle challenges that arose.
Now, a new generation of students has the opportunity to explore the garden, and Sobel is excited to team with a former student. Chorvat called it a “dream come true” to find himself back in the garden with Sobel, this time in a teaching role. He has always appreciated the value Corbett Prep places on creativity and addressing different learning styles and said he saw firsthand how important school experiences can be.