Care for creation is an important part of the curriculum in a Catholic school, and students have many opportunities to put what they learn into practice. One such opportunity has students from St. Patrick Catholic School in Parnell take their coursework to a 230-acre farm operated by a community of religious sisters.
Every day for a week each marking period, St. Patrick fifth-graders travel to the Franciscan Life Process Center in Lowell for a place-based learning experience. Their hands-on activities explore God's creation and reinforce what they're learning in their regular classroom. Students also get to know and pray with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist who host them.
Founded in 1974, the Franciscan Life Process Center assists in the education, healthy development and cultural enrichment of individuals and communities of people throughout the greater Grand Rapids area and Kent County. The center offers music therapy, music education, counseling, spiritual integration, retreats, art workshops and classes, and land programs. In addition to the Lowell farm, the center also operates an urban campus in the Basilica Center near the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids.
St. Patrick students' trips to the Franciscan Life Process Center involve caring for the farm animals each morning, learning how to identify trees, and participating in team-building activities. During their most recent visits in mid-October, they also made applesauce and cooked lunch for more than 50 people. From hiking to harvesting, the students' activities include lessons in subjects like religion, math, language arts, visual arts, music and science.
The place-based learning experience creates unforgettable opportunities for students, said St. Patrick fifth grade teacher Maureen Markules. "This is an experience they will remember always," she said, "and we are so thankful to the Franciscan sisters for hosting our school."
See photos in the gallery below or at this link. (Photos courtesy Maureen Markules.)
Students from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Our Lady of Consolation also make visits to the Franciscan Life Process Center. Click this link to see photos of a trip by IHM fifth-graders last school year.
St. Patrick Catholic School in Parnell serves more than 210 students in preschool through 8th grade. Learn more here.