“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith.”
- Aldo Leopold
Stewardship of our land, the SHERP habitats and trail, the landscaped spaces and play areas, require that our teachers and students (and other participants) develop an awareness of the flora and fauna and an understanding of the ecological relationships and environmental issues which exist as a result of human impact, past and present.
Habitat destruction, invasive species, biodiversity, soils, erosion and waste/pollution are issues that exist within our small patch of land here at Falk. As a community of learners and members of this ecosystem, we strive to understand, problem-solve, and mitigate these issues so as to improve the land for the health of all. Thus stewardship of the SHERP site means we are engaged in environmental action and are educated via this process/project over time.
Providing opportunities for students to develop sensitivities and dispositions for the land is also part of our environmental curriculum. The ecology of our flora and fauna is integrated with the arts and humanities, free exploration and free play through out the k-8 years.
What is SHERP?
An initiative of the Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School and the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania...
SHERP is a long-term environmental education initiative that promotes experiential learning across grade levels and disciplines, and improves green space. Classroom teachers and their students enhance/restore their school-grounds to natural areas rich in species diversity that contain the essential habitat components of food, water, shelter, and space. The final outcome is a school-ground that provides: curriculum-based connections, wildlife/habitat interactions, opportunities for community involvement, and mitigation of habitat loss and degradation (a significant threat to biodiversity).
The entire K-8 school community participates in stewardship activities, curricular studies and projects, free play and exploration throughout the school year as guided by a core team of Falk teachers, staff, parents, and administrators.
Participation from the wider community includes collaborations, collegial & advisory relationships with botanists/educators/naturalists from Audubon Society of Western PA, Phipps Conservatory, The University of Pittsburgh’s Biology department, Pitt Landscaping department, Urban Eco-Stewards, and Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainabitity; and stewardship relationships with volunteers from Pitt Fraternities & Sororities, and Eagle Scout Troop Seneca #398. Summer camp programs also utilize the trail. This includes Falk’s Camp Create, Shakespeare Camp, Spanish Camp, and Pitt's Western Pennsylvania Writing Project.
8th grader Asha found this hornworm caterpillar while removing invasive vines from the trail.
Photographed by Lori Wertz
Photgraphed by Evelyn & Hannah, Middle School