As a Holy Cross community, Gilmour Academy recognizes that “knowledge is at its best when it passes through our heads and our hearts.” We cannot carry out our charge as stewards of the planet “without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature... for we will not fight to save what we do not love.” Gilmour’s Nature-Based Learning and Environmental Studies initiatives then are aimed at creating a more humane and just society by harnessing the power of place-based education—the local rhythms, ecology, economy, cultures, foods and social relations—to cultivate in our students a deep sense of environmental appreciation, consciousness and social responsibility.

List of 4 items.

  • Complex, Interdisciplinary Topics

    Leveraging Gilmour’s beautiful 144-acre campus as a learning laboratory, the school’s environmental studies and sustainability programs seek to break the indoor habit through hands-on, interactive learning experiences designed to spark authentic inquiry into complex environmental issues. Environmental issues are inherently multi-faceted and interdisciplinary in nature. Engagement in environmental problem-solving helps Gilmour’s learners to see the interconnectedness of social, ecological, economic, cultural and political issues and empowers them to be well-informed agents of hope and change in their school, local, national and international communities.
  • Health & Wellness

    The Academy also recognizes that environmental issues are intertwined with issues of health and wellness. Humans are inherently connected with the natural world, yet the indoors are often perceived as a safer and preferred environment than the great outdoors. On average, American children spend 2 ¼ hours per day in front of a screen but only 30 minutes per day engaged in unstructured outdoor play. Since 2013, the amount of time children spend on mobile devices has tripled, while only 30% of students get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Along with a gradual decline in unstructured time outdoors and physical activity, we are also experiencing a growing number of attention deficit disorder diagnoses, increasing rates of adolescent depression, and childhood obesity rates hovering at 17 percent. Renowned author Richard Louv termed this phenomena “nature-deficit disorder,” suggesting that our alienation from the natural world makes us more vulnerable to an array of physical, emotional and behavioral challenges. As Louv argues, "if children are to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, nature needs to be integral to their everyday lives, from place-based learning at school to unstructured, unsupervised, even risk-prone play around home. Nature isn’t just a bunch of far-off plants, animals, and landscapes to learn about and visit once or twice a year. It’s an environment to be immersed in daily, especially during our childhood years.” Gilmour’s environmental curriculum and programming offer a counterbalance to the world’s digital landscape through opportunities for students to explore, connect with the natural world and get moving in the great outdoors!
  • Social Justice

    Environmental issues are social justice issues, and Gilmour Academy’s curriculum provides opportunities for students to live out our Holy Cross mission. The concept of sustainability has emerged out of a recognition that young people may inherit a world of reduced opportunity relative to that of previous generations. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, “Once we start living in a way that is people-friendly to all of God’s family, we will also be environment-friendly.” To work toward a more humane and just society, we must embrace the poor and vulnerable who “are the most severely affected by droughts, high temperatures, the flooding of coastal cities, and more severe and unpredictable weather events resulting from climate change.” When we listen to the stories of the world’s most vulnerable, the wisdom they share allows us to develop empathy. We realize our interconnectedness and understand that our actions, for better or worse, impact others. This inspires us to make choices and advocate for change that protects the people, animals and plants with whom we share our Common Home.
  • Preparation for the Future

    While the environmental initiative speaks to the heart of Catholic Social Teaching, this progressive curriculum will also give our students a competitive edge as they pursue future careers. While the Institute for the Future predicts that “85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet,” we do know a number of global concerns we will be facing. The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy advises job seekers to pursue a career in clean energy, calling it “one of the fastest-growing, most innovative sectors of our economy.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top two occupations that will see the largest growth by 2026 are solar photovoltaic (solar panel) installers and wind turbine service technicians. Additional clean energy careers experiencing marked growth include clean car engineers; sustainable builders, including architects and engineers; and sustainability professionals, including consultants, energy auditors, and energy managers. The environmental studies curriculum will help to cultivate the mindset, habits and tools for students to thrive while developing the competence to see and the courage to act in creating a more humane and just society.
Gilmour Academy’s 144-acre campus provides ample opportunities to immerse in the natural world. Students at all grade levels will participate in a variety of activities that will expand their awareness, understanding and appreciation of the natural attributes of their surroundings at the school and beyond. The newest project underway will add a greenhouse, apiary and a variety of gardens that will serve academic, interdisciplinary and social responsibility purposes.

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  • The Cedar Hill Farm Project

    Before it was a school, Gilmour Academy’s 144-acre campus was originally part of the Drury family’s property called Cedar Hill Farm. View historical photos from the 1930s. Our 2,500-square-foot garden offers students the opportunity to get their hands dirty and get in touch with Gilmour’s ‘roots!’
    Lower School classroom gardeners will grow starter plants for the Giving Garden, manage the habitat for local pollinators, including bees and monarch butterflies, and create solutions for low-lying wet areas around campus with rain gardens. Upper School students will run the “Giving Garden,” which will grow fresh vegetables to be donated to local food pantries to help alleviate food deserts in Cleveland.
    Twelve raised beds and six elevated planters will engage students in out-of-the-box, hands-on learning through interdisciplinary-minded plantings (e.g. dyes for art and Three Sisters for history), scientific investigation opportunities and potential research collaborations with local institutions.
  • Greenhouse

    A new greenhouse and multipurpose building lies nestled near the Lower School, the home base for a variety of garden activities. Potting soil and seeds provide starters for the Giving Garden and greens for the chickens. Lower School students help plant the raised beds, which grow vegetables to be distributed to surrounding communities in need of fresh produce. The multipurpose building houses all things needed for beekeeping, such as protective gear and hive box necessities. It is also a field station full of science equipment for nature exploration, including microscopes, magnifiers, field guides and water and soil testing kits and tools.
  • Outdoor Classroom

    A mature beech maple forest laced with edge habitats, ponds and a variety of gardens will provide the palette for naturally interdisciplinary outdoor learning on Gilmour’s 144-acre campus. Blooming wildflowers, slippery salamanders, singing birds, burnished fall leaves and glittering snowflakes will march us through a year of wonder and discovery.
  • Chicken Coop, a.k.a. "Gilmour's Girls"

    Another Cedar Hill Farm Project, students at the Lower School will tend to “Gilmour’s Girls” (a coop of heritage breed hens), with the hope of gathering their colorful eggs (blue, brown and green) and perhaps learning a bit about animal husbandry and the value of retaining genetic diversity in domesticated animals.
  • Apiary Project (The Bee Project)

    Busy hives of Italian bees provide pollinators for the Giving Garden and beyond, as well as golden honey for everyone's enjoyment. The newly planted Pollinator Garden will support these and other important local native pollinators as well.
  • Trout Project

    The third and fourth graders raised rainbow trout in their classrooms this spring, after receiving the trout eggs in January. They were responsible for testing the water chemistry daily, cleaning the tank weekly and feeding the trout. With the ODH's Order to Stay Home, the classes were no longer able to care for the trout on campus and, thus, Mrs. Stefanski released them into the Chagrin River, their natural habitat late March. Enjoy these pictures and video from the release!
  • St. Mary’s Lake

    St. Mary’s acre of life-sustaining water and a smaller pond at the Lower School provide the opportunity to investigate the microscopic plant and animal life indigenous to lakes and ponds. Pond, stream and lake study rounds out the concept of watersheds as we extrapolate learning on campus to life on the edge of the Great Lakes.
Comprehensive nature-based learning initiative for students in PreK-Grade 12 launched fall 2019 thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Brian and Gretchen Colleran and The Colleran Family Foundation, whose mission includes the support of children's education as well as nature preservation.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.

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  • Lower School

    Discovery, Connection, Experimentation, Immersion. Lower School students at Gilmour Academy will build an understanding of the natural world by immersing themselves in our local surroundings on our 144-acre campus, which includes a mature beech maple forest laced with edge habitat, a pond, St. Mary’s Lake and open fields. Our campus houses numerous plant and animal species. The addition of a greenhouse, raised beds and three garden features will allow students to put their hands in the soil as they grow plants to help those in need, to help solve local and national problems (hive collapse, habitat loss, watershed issues, pollution, food deserts), and to experiment with nature’s bounty.
    • Montessori and Kindergarten: Composting with Toddlers; bird observations/experiments; seedling starts using light carts; Gilmour Girl eggs used for baking project for schoolwide treats
    • Grades 1 & 2: Planting Pollinator Garden
    • Grades 3 & 4: Trout in the Classroom; seedling starts using light carts; weather station activity (Grade 3)
    • Grade 5: Bird observations/experiments; tree seedling program
  • Middle School

    Awareness, Opportunity, Thought, Results. With a growing awareness of the ecological balance of the natural world and an eye toward caring for our Common Home, Gilmour Academy Middle School students will build on the firm foundations built through outdoor studies at the Lower School level. Challenging, innovative and thought-provoking activities will open the door to action as students take their classwork to a new level. Seventh and eighth graders will be Gilmour’s campus beekeepers.
  • Upper School

    Leadership, Research, Experience, Action. Upper School students can participate in a range of activities that will enhance their academic experience, the Gilmour campus, and the Northeast Ohio region. The Academy’s 144 acres provide ample habitat for research and restoration activities. Students may pair with local researchers, extend classroom investigations, or simply immerse themselves in their surroundings to absorb what the natural world has to offer. The interdisciplinary opportunities are endless, with the forests, ponds and fields providing a tapestry of ever-changing prompts for art, poetry, prose and many other areas of pursuit. Upper School students will be caretakers of the Giving Garden, where they grow fresh vegetables for donation to local food pantries to help alleviate hunger and address issues of access in Cleveland’s food deserts. The Green Leadership Council will provide students the opportunity to identify campus needs and lead sustainability practices.
    Upper School students will also have the option to enroll in nature-based courses, including Environmental Science, Environment & Society and AP Environmental Science.

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Darci Sanders

    Ms. Darci Sanders 

    Nature-Based Learning Coordinator
    (440) 473-8000 x6136
An independent, Catholic, coed, day and boarding school in the Holy Cross tradition. Toddler-Grade 12.