By Kerry Breen
The Mountain View School in Mendham will be selling mason paving stones as a part of its “Paver Project” until March 20 to support the school’s Outdoor Learning Center (OLC).
The “Paver Project” was created as a form of support for the OLC. The project allows families and community members to purchase mason stones that they can engrave with their choice of a message. These memories include things like first and last names, a child’s graduation date or year, a business name, or a quote. Those stones are then laid in the center walkway of the courtyard at Mountain View. The pavers are all the same colors but come in three sizes four by eight inches, eight by eight inches, and 12 by 12 inches.
“We try to meet everyone’s needs for inspirational messages to their children, or promoting a business,” said Barry Shinske, who assists in selling the pavers. “I volunteered to assist in selling these pavers because my son is very involved with the OLC. As adults we are all busy with our lives and careers, but I felt it was important to be involved.”
The OLC is a school-based educational and community program, created more than 12 years ago, that allows students to learn how to plant and grow food that is harvested and donated to community food banks. The OLC also contains native plant species that grow locally, therefore promoting habitats for many local animal species that thrive together. In total, the OLC consists of a Shakespeare garden, herb beds, student-designed and student-maintained vegetable beds, and professionally-designed planting areas that bloom with colors throughout the year.
The unique educational space has also been the recipient of Scout projects, including a summer adopt-a-bed program and an updated OLC map/plant identification list. In the school, the OLC has been used for various curricula, including various art projects, science classes, and inspiration for Language Arts classes. Located between the two wings of the building and behind the library, the OLC also has a large patio area adjacent to it that has enough bench seating area for an entire class, in addition to picnic tables and open grassy areas for student learning.
Originally a barren and unused courtyard, it was turned into a beautiful, serene area, with the help of community effort and volunteers. By purchasing the paving stones, people are supporting the ongoing upkeep of the OLC. According to Shinske, things that are needed to keep the center running are the purchases of soil, fertilizer, tools, hoses, and annual plants and herbs. All proceeds from the sale go to the OLC.
People can also donate to the OLC without purchasing paving stones. To do so, it is recommended that those interested reach out to Brianna Kehoe or Marisa Dodge, teacher advisors.
“I don’t believe there is an easier or better way to support our school, our children, and our community,” said Shinske. “Almost all of the harvest goes directly to area food banks. This past year, the OLC club donated 174 pounds of produce to the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains. This is our largest donation of fresh produce in the school’s history! Each year, the OLC club members also prepare a harvest meal from the garden’s vegetables and herbs. This September, we had an excellent salsa party to celebrate all of our hard work!”
Those looking to purchase paving stones can do so easily, via simple form with easy instructions made available. The easiest way to have access to this is to e-mail Shinske at firstname.lastname@example.org. This year the paver sale has a deadline of March 31 to guarantee placement before the end of the school year.