The Crefeld Permaculture Center adds an outdoor classroom to our campus. Teaching students about environmental sustainability is now a part of Crefeld’s curriculum. The Permaculture Center was a welcome addition to both our Middle and Upper School science programs; our science curriculum has evolved to include courses based around the Center.

What is the Permaculture Center? Recently, Crefeld embarked on a multi-year project to build and renovate new and existing space on campus for an environmental outdoor facility. The goal of this project is to develop our curriculum to enable our students to take ownership of this learning space and then share their knowledge with others. It’s happening faster than we expected. Last year, neighborhood elementary school students were invited to campus to learn more about urban agriculture. Our students became the teachers and taught a group of interested younger students about chickens and greenhouses.

Phase 1 (completed): We worked with Philadelphia University to design our Permaculture Center. In collaboration with the University, we built a greenhouse with a north-facing, straw-bale wall, and a south-facing, aquaponics wall. We also built a chicken coop and yard with viewing areas.

Phase 2 (in-progress): To be able to use the greenhouse year-round, we built it near our glassblowing studio so that we can repurpose the waste heat from that facility. In Phase Two, we have rebuilt the glass studio’s exhaust shed and are now in the process of harnessing this expelled heat to warm the greenhouse.

Phase 3 (future): We will build an outdoor classroom that can be used for a variety of purposes, including classes for our students as well as hosting field trips.

The Permaculture Center has heightened our students’ level of thinking about environmentalism and sustainability, and they are coming up with new plans that were not a part of the original design. Already, we have added a bat house to the outside of the greenhouse--a healthy bat population means fewer bugs which means that gardeners use fewer pesticides. We also have plans for rainwater collection, composting, and mushroom farming (using the chicken waste for fertilizer.) The possibilities are many: students have been overheard talking about a weather station, windmill, and solar panels.