Restoring natural habitats is dirty work, but J.C. Parks Elementary School students know someone has to do it. Students and staff in every class from kindergarten to fifth grade recently went outside for 30 minutes and dug in to create an outdoor learning classroom habitat. On Oct. 8 and 9, volunteers helped students dig holes, cut the root balls off each plant and put each plant in the ground. Students added compost, soil and water to help each plant flourish. This project is the second and final phase to a grant Parks received four years ago.
In 2011, Parks received $100,000 from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation for Education in Nature, a project to create outdoor learning areas within restored natural habitats. The first phase of the grant was used to restore and cleanup the wetlands outside their building. The rest of the grant is being used on an outdoor classroom that includes benches, a paved walkway to the outdoor classroom lined with trees, plants indigenous to Maryland and concrete tables for students to use during classroom activities. A variety of learning opportunities are incorporated into the design of each accessible, sustainable and environmentally friendly space. Everyone at Parks benefits from and uses the outdoor space for class assignments and projects.
Parks Principal Thadine Wright says she is proud of what has been accomplished and is grateful for the support her school has received from the community, students and staff. “Our staff at Parks is amazing. Every teacher has jumped right in to help and be a part of this experience,” Wright said.
“One of the great things about this project is that every single student has participated in one way or another. From prekindergarten to fifth grade, students have shown great motivation and excitement towards this opportunity. I think it is wonderful that as the students learn and grow, they can watch their plants grow as well,” she said.
Throughout this four-year experience, Parks has been visited by elected officials, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, community members and businesses all ready and willing to help. “It has been a team effort and I cannot thank each and every volunteer and hard-working individual for making this possible and for being the difference,” Wright added.
The projects from the Lowe’s grant are expected to be complete by the end of this school year. For more information on the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation for Education in Nature grant, visit http://responsibility.lowes.com/.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,500 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.