• Where DOES the time go?

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 1/22/2021

    How i

    s it January 2021?    It's been a year since our community was first impacted by Covid- hearing of cases elsewhere in the US and wondering when and how it might affect OUR lives.  Perspective is a powerful thing!  I could have never imagined that there would be tens of millions of cases globally. and that more than 400,000 Americans have been killed.  This virus has left it's mark on every single one of us, a global sickness unlike any seen in the past century.

    Keeping students, co-workers and our own families safe, is the first, last and middle thoughts of every educator I know and work with.  Classrooms are different, instruction is altered, and each day seems to present new challenges.  I'm so impressed with the resiliency and sheer will of the professionals I work with who show up for their students, even when exhausted and scared.


    At many of Avons buildings there is also construction taking place- at Maple the building is being doubled in size which means there is work happening on all sides of the campus- from a new wing of classrooms and front offices to the North, new gym, music and OLC spaces to the West and new playground on the South East side!  The OLC proper is not undergoing any changes, but Maple students are using the space for socially distanced recesses!  We had to dismantle the garden, but a new space will take shape on the Western side of the new gym.  That will likely be spring of 2022. 


    Speaking of spring- Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Smith and I made the hard call to postpone our native plant sale for another year too.  Between health and construction considerations it just feels unsafe to undertake the sale.  


    So in this strange new reality we are making amazing progress on removing invasive plants, like Asian honeysuckle, from the OLC, thrilling at sightings of the deer who frequent the space, and loving all of the innovative fun we see from students in the natural play area!

    Be well, 

    Mrs. Davies

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  • Perennial Plant of the Year and we'll have them for sale!

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 3/3/2017

    And the Winner Is...

    Perennial Plant Association Picks Plant of the Year


        Yes folks, it’s the moment all Indiana botanists and green thumb gurus have been eagerly awaiting. No, it’s not waking up Christmas morning under the natural evergreen in the living room or the blooming of spring your favorite spring flowers.   It is the announcement of plant of the year for 2017 by the Perennial Plant Association. Naturally, no pun intended, the plant is a perennial. It is the Asclepius Tuberosa, or for those less scientific, we will refer to it by its common nickname, The Butterfly Weed.  Since weeds tend to get a bad rap, the Asclepius Tuberosa can be referred to by one of its many monikers.  Some are more flattering than others.  A few of the most popular are the chigger flower, orange swallow-wort, orange milkweed and the more poetic butterfly love.

         Whatever you want to call it, the Butterfly Weed is an extremely valuable plant that goes above and beyond to do its part in helping its environment. For starters, as its name implies, the Butterfly Weed provides nectar for, you guessed it, butterflies. The Monarch and Queen species love it as does the Tussock Moth.   Its delectable nectar also satisfies the pallets of all different species of hummingbirds.  But one of the most essential services the plant provides is that it is a source of larval food for the Monarch butterflies. Essentially, this beautiful, bright orange flowering plant acts as ground zero for the Monarch cycle of life.  Think of this flowering plant as sort of an interstate truck stop where butterflies can stop and get what they need as they pass through our Hoosier state.  Then it’s adios as they eventually make their way to sunny Mexico.

        Another great quality of the Butterfly Weed is its hardiness.  They do well in full sun and they are resistant to drought since they were originally a prairie plant.  Also, deer and insects tend to leave them alone which makes them a wonderful addition to any backyard garden.  Imagine the buzzing metropolis you could create with a few of these gorgeous plants.  Their bright orange flowers will attract bumble bees, humming birds, butterflies, and most likely a few envious neighbors.

        Where do we get our hands on such a magnificent plant?  How can I help the environment, assist in Monarch butterfly migration and feed the hummingbird population?  I am glad you asked!  It just so happens the Avon Outdoor Learning Center will have an ample supply of this award-winning perennial and we would like to spread the love.  In fact, on April 28th and 29th of 2017 we will be hosting our 15th annual Native Plant Sale.  So, come join us, bring the kids and  watch the Asclepius Tuberosa in action and purchase a few for your own garden.  For more information on our sale and how you can volunteer at the Avon Outdoor Learning Center, contact:

     Jennifer Davies at   Jenniferdaviesolc@avon-schools.orgb'fly m'weed

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  • So much for resolutions...

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 1/13/2016


    What did I say back at the start of school?!  Sigh.  Blogging is just not a strength!  I guess I talk to so many people on a daily basis that this medium just doesn't appeal as much as real, actual facetime!


    And boy am I getting some of that tomorrow!  So excited to be heading to Purdue to present with my good buddy and educational partner in crime, Amy Sieferman!  It's a first attempt at a STEM conference for educators around the state.  Word is they organizers were hoping for 300 folks to sign up and had to close registration when 600 people said they wanted to come!


    I'm not nervous about the public speaking piece- it's the logisitics.  I've put to gether a Prezi to show that I'm tech savvy (kinda), then I put a Powerpoint together because I was worried about web access.  It IS purdue but hey- stuff happens!  And then I gathered a few handfuls of favorite photos...just in case we lose power and I STILL want to share what fun and wonderful things the students do here.  


    Our topic?  Growing things as a tool for educators.  My head nearly explodes when I try and whittle it down to just a few bullet points. Seeds need soil, water, sun and air- duh :) But that encompasses SOOOOOOOO much!  I'm pretty sure we'll be making many new friends and return inspired by the amazing things others are accomplishing.   


    So I'm off- wish me luck- and an easy wi-fi connection!

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  • Thar she blows!

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 7/23/2015
    As I admitted in my last blog I'm not very good at regularly posting.  A goal for the new school year!  
    I'm going to begin this note by saying a huge THANK YOU to the Avon Admin., staff and our community.  In the past 7 months the OLC has been able to raise more than $12K AND receive 2/3's funding for my position from the Administration and Board.  And we ended the school year with an attendance of 9,300!  Not having to constantly worry about having enough money to teach means I can focus on programs- helping teachers and working with students.  Exciting times ahead!!  
    That said, we need a new tractor/mower and some repairs to the OLC- also need to keep bringing down dead ash trees so they don't pose a safety hazard ( anyone need firewood?!?!) so keep an eye out for requests and fundraising for those needs.
    My family went on our longest vacation ever this summer.  Actually I've been home less than 48 hours and am still on a new experiences high!  Family is first- reconnecting with cousins from the UK we'd not seen in 10 years, celebrating my In-laws 50th wedding anniversary, Legoland with the younger set...warms the heart.  Its new experiences and adventures that fuel the spirit and this trip was amazing!  I checked off a bucket list item by seeing blue whales.  BLUE WHALES!  Largest animal to EVER live on the planet (8 year old Niece and 14 year old son were not convinced until they Googled dinos vs. blue whale).  Awe. Some.
    Camped at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah (a new state for our family!).  The geology, history and sheer scale of the land robbed us of new superlatives.  Every corner afforded a view more majestic than the last. Awe. Some.- again!  
    4,700 miles in 13 days.  I am pumped for a new year (could use some help taming the weeds int he garden though!!- what carzy, wet weather in IN!), looking forward to greeting a bus load of new ACSC teachers and staff tomorrow to share the OLC with them- make new connections and plan new adventures!  You can follow along on Facebook and Twitter (@AvonOLC).  It's an amazing world- I love sharing it !!
    blue whale  
    Blue whale facts:
    Heart is the size of a VW beetle car!
    Grow to 100 feet long and weigh 200 tons.
    They have a mouth filled with baleen plates (made of the same material as our fingernails) which they use to sieve tiny shrimp-like animals, called krill, out of the water to eat.  They can consume 4 tons of krill a day.
     Calves weigh 3 tons at birth and can gain 200 lbs per day while nursing on very rich milk from their mother.
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  • Strong suits

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 12/17/2014
    So maybe blogging is not one of my strong points.  I'm a people person and rather than sitting down at a lone desk and whacking away at a keyboard I'm better suited to chatting with a group, interacting and learning from each other.
    My passion for children and education comes across in any medium, but I guess it's the lack of immediate response- or any response :)- that does not send me to blog often.  And OK, I'll admit it- I LOVE the immediacy of social media.  I can take a picture, have a moment and tweet it in the next breath.  Boom- hundreds receive my thoughts/experiences almost as I have them- see the baby blue birds, sprouting garden, excited small faces- along with me! 
    cabin   Winter is a time to regroup, recharge and think to the future.  The first seed catalog came last week, Travis the Eagle Scout finished the fence for the garden and I'm already thinking of fundraising for the spring.  Trying to find the magic formula to keep this place going.  April 2015 will see us trying a big event, actually several all tied together,  trying to secure longevity for the OLC and my role within it.  We could use some help!  The idea is an online auction, family event at the OLC AND school based fundraisers.  Here is the general outline: 
    April 8, 2015: online auction begins (2 week run)
    Week of April 13: each Avon school building can devise their own fundraising effort
    Sat. April 18: family event a the OLC with games, entertainment, vendors and food (some auction items on display)
    Weds April 22nd ( Earth Day): auction ends 
    If you would like to lend a hand, let me know!  Happy Holidays to you and yours!!  And if you want to visit in person, I'll have a fire going and the cabin open over break.  Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter to find out when!
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  • Exciting things happening!

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 8/13/2014

    Saturday Sept. 20th: 

    Operating since 1812, C.M. Hobbs is located on 15 acres at 1201 S. 1050 E. on the Westside of Indianapolis. On Saturday Sept. 20th it will be open 11:00 am to 3:00 pm to benefit the Avon Outdoor Learning Center. Items for sale include Fall Annuals, Perennials, Trees, Shrubs, Hostas, assorted Native Indiana plant species, ground covers, and many other plants. This event offers a rare opportunity to shop at our facility and 7% of all purchases will be donated to support the programs of the Avon Outdoor Learning Center

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  • Where Does the Time Go!?!?!

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 7/30/2014

    Happy First Day of School!

     The days do just seem to fly by!   June was spent with the IU West/ United Way pre- Kg camp.  We had 24 youngsters who are all in their new classes this morning with all of the skills and enthusiasm for learning that Janet Craig, Renee Moore, myself and a bunch of AWESOME volunteers could instill in 18 days!

    July was for getting caught up at home, having some family adventures and keeping the gardens going!  Our Monday night Garden Clubs were well supported by students, their families and Master Gardeners.  The weather didn't seem to want to cooperate ( several days cancelled due to storms) but things are thriving and we are eating well!  The cooler temps have meant that we still have cucumbers and squash that haven't called it quits yet and broccoli that's just coming on.
    We could really use some help this fall.  Some projects are simple- trimming trails, weeding beds.  Other you can do from home- sewing for Pioneer Day... speaking of PD- we could use some folks to help run stations too!  Drop a line to olc@avon-schools and I can share dates, times and activities that need a knowlegable person.  We'll train ya!
    Thanks for your continued support!  Looking forward to a productive year!


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  • Crazy, wonderful spring!

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 5/12/2014
    So maybe blogging is not my strong suit...Not even sure if anyone reads this blog, but it's a nice way to document the changes that come down the pike.  The Avon community has been so supportive of the OLC, ny heart just overflows!  The schools raised $12, 000 in a week to fund this program.  It's not enough for a year, but a great cushion for me to write some more grants, have more conversations, shake more trees! 
    The children have made it clear that this place, and the experiences we offer them, are important to them.  I'll keep working to make it sustainable!  If you can think of anyone who might be supportive of our mission, and have the resources to fund it, please let us know!
    Plants, animals and projects!  That's spring at the OLC!  4 truck loads of mulch donated by GreenCycle McCarty need to be spread, the garden needs to be brought to life again, events, visits and so much to do!  If you have a few hours to spare, drop me a line and come help out :)  I'm back to the garden- the plant sale is THIS WEEKEND!!!!
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  • When the Going Gets Tough...

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 11/22/2013
    ...The tough get creative!
    In the past 10 days I've gotten a lot of bad news.  We asked CSX to grant us $35,000 for operational costs.  They said 'great job' and gave us $2,500.  Emily Cates, Avon's Food Services Administrator, and I wrote a big, scary Federal Grant for USDA's Farm to School Program last February.  Notification was due in October but with the Goverment shut down we were told it would be mid-November.  Monday we got a letter of 'non-funding' from them.
    So in a short amount of time the money to keep me at my post became critical.  There is enough for 44 eight hour days.  Some days I only have a class or two, or need to catch up on paper work and can shave off some time.  Others, like yesterday, was seven hours of Pioneer Day (prep and the actual event), emails and then a meeting turned into a 9.5 hour day...I think I can stretch the funds out until mid to late February.
    I had a meeting with Superintendant Dr. Hoernemann after we heard from CSX.  My first question to her was "Is the current OLC programming of value to Avon Schools"?
    It wasn't a job they created and hired someone to fill...I sort of saw a niche- this awesome site which was not being used to it's potential- and filled it.  Carol Ford basically informed our former Superintendant, Tim Ogle,  that the OLC needed me to move to the next level.  She was an integral part of creating this world-class site but wasn't sure what teachers needed to use it to their best advantage.  My background includes exactly that...getting classes outside-kids AND teachers- to help their cirruculum come alive, making deep connections and sparking the desire to know even more about the sysytems that drive our world and all the things on it.  THAT is really hard to test.  Connecting the dots that mold a thoughtful, responsible adult.  I wish I could peer into a crystal ball and see the kids I had in my 'Birds, Bats and Bugs' camp at the Missouri Botnaical Garden back in the mid- 1990's.  They'd be on their late 20's now.  How did those experiences shape who they have become as young adults?  Dr. Maggie's response to me was an uneqivical 'yes'.  Avon Schools have some serious financial issues too.  It's a lot about rapid growth, tax caps and general funds...a topic for another time.  But with her support I feel we can creativley figure this out!
    So back to the present challange.  This is pretty much my dream job. kids, outside, excited about learning, innovating.  I'll keep writing grants because I believe in this place.  I don't like wirting grants -even now I'm chafing at having sat at the computer long enough to write this blog ;)- but without them the OLC will be a site without a coordinator.  There are certainly teachers who will continue to use it.  But they are already BUSY people.  I can hike the trails every day and get broken limbs moved, pick up garbage thats been dropped, have a firing burning when they get here.  I can be the touchstone for Scouts and volunteers to get garden beds built, projects completed.  I bring a skill set and knowledge of THIS special classroom.  I know how to use it to maximize learning and raise even more generations of thoughtful, innovated people.  So.  Enough writing about it!  I'm off to teach and inspire.  Are you with me?!?!
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  • Volunteers get the job done!

    Posted by Jennifer Davies on 9/30/2013

    You have likely heard me shout the praises of volunteers inthe past, but I really want to make sure that the folks who give their time, labor and skills to the OLC are fully aware of what their time means!

    Last week alone there were Girl Scouts who sewed bags forPioneer Day, volunteers who repaired the greenhouse, parents and students who made adorable bees to decorate the Heritage parade float and those who spent 2 days (and will spend more days to come!) chopping wood, sewing and leading other activities during the 4th grade Pioneer Day events. 


    These folks give up their days off, take time from their busy schedules.  Some because they have children in our schools, some because I asked them and some because they understand that it DOES take all of us to be a community, to build connections and raise intelligent, involved citizens. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics only 26.5% of us volunteer at all. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm)


    In Indiana each volunteer is valued at $18.33(http://www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time) as an hourly wage.  Last year the OLC was recipient of the equivalentof $30,000 in volunteer hours. And as our budget last year was just over$13,000 to say that the OLC would not exist without volunteers is absolutely true!  So, for those of you who already volunteer- thanks and kudos!  For the other 73.5%, give us a call, we have a project for you J
    Steve, Laura and Kathy- OLC Volunteers
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