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Hartselle Enquirer

Built in a day

A group of Barkley Bridge fifth graders use milk jugs to scoop loose dirt from what would later become a frog bog in Barkley Bridge’s outdoor classroom. | Clif Knight

Students chip in with outdoor classroom

Barkley Bridge Elementary School now has an outdoor classroom with all of the amenities thanks to a cooperative effort involving faculty members, students, parents and volunteers.

Outdoor Classroom Day was conducted Oct. 19. Volunteers constructed a songbird sanctuary, dry creek streambed and rain garden, a bog with frog and lizard habitat, raised bed gardens and other learning stations.

The project was conducted in partnership with the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program and was supported by community volunteers from GE’s North Alabama Volunteer Chapter.

Funding for materials was provided by a state grant from State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and a GE grant.

All students participated in the workday, alternating by grades from K-1 through fifth. The jobs they performed ranged from moving rock and gravel to work sites to using plastic milk jugs to scoop up dirt from the bog.

The outdoor classroom had its beginning four years ago with the organization of a committee headed by first grade teacher Joy Thomas. A plan was formalized and work to implement it began in earnest last summer. While some learning stations were already in place, most of the work was reserved for “Outdoor Classroom Day.”

“The classroom will be multi-disciplinary,” said Thomas. “It will be used for much more than teaching math and science. For example, one of the plants we chose for the bog is named ‘Kiss Me Over The Gate Kate.’”

She said each grade will work with a particular learning station and will have responsibility for its maintenance and upkeep.

April Waltz, a conservation education specialist with the Alabama Wildlife Federation, provided technical assistance and helped plan the project.

“The kids are loving it,” Waltz said. “Each one has a stake in the outdoor classroom and they won’t forget the role they played in making it a reality.”

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