History of HHSD Outdoor Classroom

  • Prior to becoming part of the school district, the 13 acres that includes the Jarrett Nature Center was part of the Jarrett family working farm for over 150 years. The original structures included a house, barn, springhouse, and other farm buildings. Morris Jarrett, the last member of the family to farm the property, raised vegetables that were sold to the Campbell Soup Company and maintained a herd of dairy cattle.

    After the Jarrett family moved, land planning was undertaken and part of the property was developed for school buildings. In 1972, the building and associated facilities for the Keith Valley Middle School (now Simmons Elementary School) were constructed. In 1992, the new Hatboro-Horsham High School was built on the other end of the property. The interior land between the two buildings is a rich assemblage of woods, meadow, pond, and floodplain. It is not suitable for development due to the sensitive environmental conditions and local and state regulations which limit its use.

    By allowing it to maintain its natural conditions, the undeveloped area became an ideal place for environmental education, nature appreciation, and passive recreation. Early on it was informally used by some teachers and students for class field trips related to science and other subjects. Several years of planning by administrators, teachers, and the Simmons Home and School Association resulted in establishing this area as a preserve and dedicated environmental education area for use by the Hatboro-Horsham School District and the community. The area was officially named the Jarrett Nature Center (JNC) and dedicated as Hatboro-Horsham's Outdoor Classroom in April 2002.

    Today the Jarrett Nature Center offers hands-on teaching and viewing opportunities for a wide range of habitats from upland meadow and woods to flowing water and wetlands. It is visited by students of all ages, from kindergarteners venturing on a nature scavenger hunt along the trails to high school students collecting data on macroinvertebrates in our creek. The JNC is also a source of inspiration for writing and art classes. The renovated outdoor fireplace is now a story teller's chair thanks to the skills of senior ceramic arts students. Members of the community also enjoy the benefit of having this special place for taking walks or observing nature.

    Our community plays a vital role in the continued development of the Jarrett Nature Center. Employees of local companies such as Penn Mutual and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and members of community groups such as the Rotary Club have regular volunteer service days at the nature center and have helped plant trees, spread wood chips, remove invasive species, and assisted with other upkeep tasks. The Hatboro-Horsham Education Foundation has provided the financial support to complete many of the projects that provide innovative learning opportunities for students at the JNC, including digital cameras, designated backpacks equipped with standards-based lessons and equipment, and two enclosures with deer fencing so students can observe the impact of deer browsing on forests. Local scout troops and Eagle Scouts often work on projects benefiting the nature center. The combined effort of educators and community members has made the Jarrett Nature Center an engaging place for all to enjoy.


    The Jarrett's