Knowledge is blooming
Outdoor learning center now open at Falkville Elementary
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
A new community built outdoor learning environment is growing education and cultivating young minds at Falkville Elementary School.
Where an old white trailer sat less than a year ago on an otherwise unused area between classroom buildings, an outdoor learning environment now stands for students of all grade levels to use and enjoy.
According to fourth grade science teacher Anna Henderson, the project came to fruition through the hard work and dedication of teachers, faculty, students, parents, community leaders, churches and civic organizations.
"It has been kind of like a dream come true," Henderson said. "A project like this usually takes three to four years to complete. We began in January and the area was being used by August. That's how determined we were to get it done."
Principal Hank Summerford built the large outdoor classroom, provided by a $3,000 Flint Creek Watershed grant, during the school's summer break. Area churches donated funds for multi-purpose bench/desk seating in the classroom. Local Dephi employees volunteered to assemble the seating.
Thanks to one local church, a gazebo called "Mattie's Place" was also added to the area in memory of Falkville teacher Mattie Henderson.
Apple's Florist, Falkville VFW and Morgan County Master Gardeners assisted with landscaping. Morgan County Extension Agent Mike Reeves developed the landscaping plan to make the area almost self-sufficient, requiring very little maintenance. High school agriculture students are helping mulch the area.
Three Falkville High School students completed their Eagle Scout projects in the outdoor learning environment. Frankie Millinpos built the outdoor amphitheater, Joshua Henderson built raised garden beds, and Eric Huff is currently working on building a greenhouse.
The PTO contributed funds and materials and helped spread the word about the hefty project.
A host of other businesses and members of the community also pitched in.
Through science and environmental grants secured by faculty and staff, the outdoor learning environment features a weather station, environmental center, butterfly garden, bird feeders, recycled rainwater station, composting station, and utility storage center.
Native trees, vegetation, and fall gardens have also been planted throughout the area by students. Several fifth grade students were trained as lab assistants to aid teachers and students with projects and tasks.
"This has already been a wonderful hands-on learning experience for the students," Henderson said. "Not only has the community created a great educational resource for the school, but also added to the beauty and conservation of our campus."
The outdoor learning environment was built in conjunction with an indoor science learning lab that features hands-on learning tools for life, physical and earth sciences.
"The kids are loving it," Henderson said. "There are a lot of things in here that teachers would not have access to if they had to buy it themselves."
Lab assistants are also available to help students with the area's computer station, listening center, experiment station and group or individual instruction. A discovery touch table, mini hydro greenhouse and library are also included in the lab.
"You wouldn't believe what all teachers are using this lab for," Henderson said. "It and the outdoor area are very versatile educational tools. Everyone has just been wonderful to work with in making it a reality."
A dedication ceremony was held Oct. 29 for the outdoor learning environment and indoor science lab in honor of former Falkville High School science and math teacher John Teague.
"He had a big influence on my life and the lives of many other teachers who graduated from and now teach at Falkville," Henderson said. "We thought this would be a great way to honor him."