School Gardens and Natural Areas

yellow wildflowers

The Shawnee Mission School District has a long history of outdoor learning laboratories and landscapes supported by curriculum, community partners and grants.

School Gardens

Students and teachers work with the Sustainability office and non-profits to plant vegetable and habitat gardens in soil enriched by compost from school cafeterias. All outdoor learning is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and district priority standards. 

Partners include Kansas City Community Gardens, Cultivate Kansas City, The Giving Grove, Missouri Organic Recycling, Bridging the Gap, Deep Roots KC, Kansas Wildlife, Parks & Tourism Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites (OWLS) and Monarch Watch.

Contact the Chief of Early Childhood/Sustainability to get started planning your school garden.

A boy and girl hammer garden frame boards together

Natural Areas

The Shawnee Mission School District supports outdoor learning in natural areas. Pre-K and elementary students participate in programs led by high school environmental education students.

  • The Shawnee Mission Environmental Science Laboratory (SMESL) is a 22 acre preserve at Shawnee Mission South High School that includes a woodland, prairie, pond and trails situated along Indian Creek. 
  • An 18 acre preserve at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School includes a wetland, woodland, prairie and managed stormwater detention area planted in native grasses and flowers.
  • Shawnee Mission East High School is developing an outdoor learning site that will include a greenhouse, native grasses and a pond.
  • Students in the Shawnee Mission West High School Environmental Sustainability program develop outdoor gardens for food and habitat, as well as manage a wind turbine at the school.
  • Trailridge Middle School grounds include an Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site (OWLS) with a woodland and trails.
  • Hocker Grove Middle School students have access to a wooded area and Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site (OWLS) with trails and a stormwater detention area planted in native grasses and perennials.
flower bed, parking lot and Center for Academic Achievement

Native Landscapes

The Shawnee Mission School District supports sustainable landscape site design to increase student achievement, improve environmental quality and serve the community.

Native plants increase habitat and reduce maintenance.

  • Native plants support wildlife, including pollinators, birds and monarch butterflies.
  • Drought-tolerant and heat-resistant native plants require less watering once they are established.
  • Stands of native plants reduce mowing.

The Center for Academic Achievement is an example of site design strategies that:

  • Incorporate a 1.3 acre urban farm to serve as a resource to multiple curricular programs including the Culinary and Biotechnology Signature programs.
  • Support birds, bees and pollinators with fields of native plants and grasses.
  • Filter stormwater running off parking lots and roofs through a series of small swales and streamways.
  • Provide connections to the neighborhood with walking trails and cut-throughs leading into the natural area.

 Enjoy a walk on the 1/4-mile trail at the Center for Academic Achievement and download a Plant List and Photo Guide of Native Wildflowers and Grasses to learn about the plants and grasses you will see.

Download a Tree and Plant list recommended for school landscapes.