Green school to feature eco-conscious curriculum

BRADENTON — Not only will G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary be Manatee County’s first green school, but it will also be the district’s first professional development school for University of South Florida teaching students.

After months of talks, Manatee schools and USF officials are ready to seal a deal that would allow teaching students to observe classes, take classes and perform their internships at the new school in central Bradenton.

Through the partnership, officials hope to prepare new teachers, train existing teachers and raise student achievement.

There will be more people to help out in a classroom, said Wendy Herrera, G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary’s new principal.

And the research and skills USF professors bring with them to the school will hopefully pass on to students, said Lynette Edwards, Manatee school’s assistant superintendent of academics.

“If we have USF professors who really are doing the research, who have the most up-to-date information and best practices, and they are working one-on-one with the teachers in the school, the teachers carry forth the best practices,” she said. “That will increase student achievement.”

USF students at different stages of their college careers will be at Rogers Garden to either observe or teach, Edwards said. There will be interns and observers at every grade level, but not in every classroom.

Herrera also hopes to use her school’s distinction as the district’s first green school to provide lessons about nature and conservation.

The school is designed to be environmentally friendly and is the district’s first “green” school built to guidelines from the U.S. Green Building Council. One of the many ways to secure a green building certification from the council is through educating the users of the facility on environmental issues.

Herrera plans to do just that. Along with district administrators, she will develop a green focus for each grade level, she said.

The school will also have an outdoor classroom, a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden. That will be the base for the Junior Master Gardener program at the school, where the local University of Florida Extension Office will contribute to the shaping of the lessons.

“Learn what Earth can do this generation. A lot of kids don’t know where their food comes from. They probably think it comes from the grocery store,“ she said. “There are so many lessons wrapped up by just doing a garden at school.”

There will also be other partnerships with local nature and wildlife nonprofit organizations, Herrera said.

Rogers Garden Elementary is under construction, and will open this fall. The construction of the school was budgeted at $17.3 million and has a capacity for 580 students.

So far, 170 students have confirmed their attendance, and Herrera said she is working on recruiting more, including the 270 children living near the school, to hit her 350-student goal.