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Geodome inspires environmental and sustainability learning – Lowell Sun
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Geodome inspires environmental and sustainability learning – Lowell Sun

TYNGSBORO — Unlike some other private schools in the area that are tucked into neighborhoods, the Academy of Notre Dame is blessed to have a picturesque 200-acre campus.

There is plenty to do in the area for recreation.

Also, learning.

Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, a geodome — think of it as a science classroom in the woods — has been built a short walk from the main building.

Geodome is a campus-wide initiative that aims to enhance sustainability programs and environmental sciences.

Principal James Flynn said that the students were dancing and singing while they were planting the beds. There are videos of it.

It’s the Merrimack valley’s first building of its type. School officials claim that the nearest geodome to a school is located in Maine, but that building is much smaller that that of the academy.

The geodome measures 42 ft in diameter at its base. The dome’s ceiling extends 16 1/2 ft above the ground. It is large enough to be visited by entire classes.

Vittoria Paco, Head School, said that the geodome has a WOW factor for students, from prekindergarten children all the way to high school seniors.

It’s not just for students. We’ve seen it in action with parents. Some board members. They all said, Wow, that’s amazing, Pacifico said.

It is one thing to talk on photosynthesis, crop growing, solar panels, and other topics. It’s quite another to see it in person. The geodome permits for year-round, sustainable gardening.

Flynn explained that this gives students the opportunity to do lots of hands on work. It has become a field trip for students.

Growing Spaces purchased the geodome, which was located in Pagova Spring, Colo., an area known for its harsh winters as well as the difficulty of growing vegetables in colder climates.

The building was delivered to campus in October. It was assembled over five days. Students were excited to see the progress of the geodome being built. The inside work is nearly finished.

Students of all levels were asked for their help in building the interior of the geodome. The students poured soil into the different beds. Basil, garlic, and Kale were planted.

Flynn stated that the geodome is an outdoor learning lab for all of our students. Everyone can take some ownership. It’s a big deal with the students.

Katherine Duanmu, a freshman, plans to major in STEM-based (science technology engineering, mathematics) at college. Duanmu is fascinated by the geodome. She said that many of her friends from Nashua, N.H. are jealous when she describes it.

She said that I was shocked when I first saw the geodome. Science is one of my favorite subjects. I am a young person with many concerns about climate change. We should make it a priority. The geodome is a blessing to me.

A 3,000-gallon tank is also featured in the geodome. Sixteen fish — a mix of goldfish, golden loaches and butterfly loaches — swim in the large tank. To keep the area clean, snails were introduced.

The aquarium is powered by solar panels. The tank absorbs heat from the early morning and releases it late in the day.

The geodome does not have electricity because all elements are interdependent in order to make the building work.

There are not many geodomes near campus so advice may be difficult to find. School representatives expect that the winter ahead will be challenging. There will be many mistakes. However, that is part of learning.

Flynn stated that I find it more enjoyable. We all know that learning comes from trial and error. It is science in action.

Pacifico explained that the geodome is part in a five year strategic plan, which is a bold revisiting the schools mission. She hopes that the geodome will encourage students to choose the school, which is located just off Route 3.

She said that we continue to improve our science program.

The Academy of Notre Dame, also known as NDA, has been in its current location for close to 100 years. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Lowell founded the school in 1854. In 1927, the school moved to Tyngsboro.

Pacifico stated that the NDA is unique because students are learning on campus. It’s something we definitely market. NDA is a popular choice for students because of its environmental sciences.

Duanmu explained that looking at plants in their natural environment is more interesting than looking at them in a lab.

The soil-filled beds were set up at different heights throughout this geodome because the school educates high school students through pre-kindergarten through highschool.

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