The first school with a Green Roof

In the academic year 2019-20 we have become the first school with a green cover: an ecological 400-m2-roof terrace on top of our building in Eixample, where students now also take lessons outdoors. And, beyond being an extension of the school’s classrooms and laboratories, the green cover provides us with the possibility of offering students new, different and very current learning. Some lessons for the future aligned with the moment in which we live and very significant for the world that awaits them.

It has been an ambitious and highly motivating project the conversion of a disused old rooftop into a green cover that contributes to improving urban biodiversity, absorbing pollution and generating the effect of a heat island. As always, the motor of this illusion has been our students and the opportunity to offer the possibility of integrating nature into their daily academic activity.

Respecting its original structure, formed by different stepped terraces, we redesigned the space as a sample of the different contents that may be in a green cover. In this way, we multiplied the variety of learning, methodologies and techniques that our students can experience. In fact, they have been involved in the project from the first day: all grades –from P3 to Grade 2 of Baccalaureate– were in charge of planting the 250 plants that cover it, and of planting the traditional and hydroponic garden.

One of the curricular practices introduced by the teachers, with the help of specialists, is the realisation of the hydroponic cultivation: watering the roots with nutrient-rich water based on a chemical composition. Other examples are the workshops offered during the Science Week to the students of the Nursery about aromatic and medicinal plants (thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, female botanical, etc.) to stimulate senses such as smell, sight and touch.

Moreover, the workshops that P3, P4 and P5 carry out three afternoons a week, including from sowing to harvesting different varieties of the traditional garden, such as lettuce, endive, cabbage, chard, spinach, carrots, fennel, chives, leeks, garlic and beans. In addition, these young pupils have learnt to check that everything is fine and follow its cycle, from observing with magnifying glasses that there are no aphids on the leaves or any other natural invader, such as butterfly eggs.

Primary students also participate in the cycle of planting and harvesting the organic harvest from these two farming systems. In addition, they have already learned that the production of the orchards can increase up to 20% thanks to the insect hotel, one of the great claims of our green cover. It mainly houses pollinators (wasps, butterflies, bees and bumblebees), aphid predators (lacewing, ladybugs and earwigs) and other insects that eat insects that are also harmful for the garden (spider, beetle, centipede…).

Secondary students are mainly in charge of the hydroponic garden harvest, since removing it from the perlite sacks requires more precision, and they use the entire length of the cover for different learning. In the traditional garden they have planted peas to experiment with Mendel’s laws, on genetic inheritance and DNA, which they study in Biology, following the same scientific method as Mendel carried out. In Physics, in the so-called sustainability zone and from a computer application, they have analyzed the daily production of electricity generated by the photovoltaic cells of the roof. In Maths, and thanks to precision binoculars, they have learned trigonometry, to work with spatial orientation and data processing through statistics.

Another great learning platform within the perimeter of the green roof is the weather station. From it, students have learned to measure thermal inversion phenomena, atmospheric pressure, evapotranspiration, the volume of rain in relation to time, the intensity of UVA and UVB radiation, etc. On the whole, practices that, along with being useful for the learning process of students, allow the school to actively contribute to citizen science with these data and thus scale learning to benefit sustainability and the environment.

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