On May 31, 2023, Alpha Infant had the immense privilege of launching its very own Fresh Air Garden! This initiative (led by the school’s Parents & Teachers Association), strongly promotes the Critical Concern – “earth” of the Sisters of Mercy. This beautiful space which proudly features a turtle pond, empowers our children to engage with nature and learn more about the world around them. The event was well-attended by teachers and students, along with representatives from the PTA, Bogle’s Property Services and other Mercy institutions. Long-time friend of the school, Deacon Ronald Thwaites, was also among the special guests present.
The audience was treated to a humorous poetry reading by Mrs. Erika Allen-Lennon and Ms. Donna Rose (which explained the garden’s origin story), a performance by the school’s award-winning dance troupe, and, finally, a tour of the garden itself.
The Garden is the brainchild of Mrs. Allen-Lennon who, for years, has kept a turtle as a classroom pet and has witnessed, firsthand, how interacting with the animal helps autistic and/or disruptive children to stay engaged and settle down in class. Upon seeing the huge impact these small creatures had on her pupils, she began to think of ways in which other classes could access the turtles too. With the support of parents and staff (in particular, Ms. Rose and Mrs. McDonnouh Foster), the PTA donated three Red-Eared Slider turtles (named Mr. Brown, Bob and Sandy), which were initially shared among classrooms. Later on, Bogle Property Services stepped in to develop a central garden area in which children from the whole school could come to relax and be around these remarkable animals.
Now, the three turtles live in a spacious green space populated with various plants and set against the backdrop of an attractive mural. They are also joined by two Jamaican Slider Trachemys Terrapin turtles named ‘Jump’ and ‘Gully’ (the latter of which was rescued from a gully), as well as a number of fish. This beloved area has become an oasis where awe-struck boys and girls discover the wonders of nature up close and discuss their observations with each other. With assistance from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) and parents, the environmental club plays a big role in caring for the animals by cleaning the garden, feeding the pets, and putting them back into their tanks when needed.
At Sisters of Mercy, we believe that children should be brought up to understand, appreciate, and care for the earth. Through our schools’ creative initiatives like the Fresh Air Garden, it looks like we’re well on our way to achieving just that.