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The outdoor classroom built on the campus of Mid-Prairie West Elementary School has been under utilized since it was built more than 20 years ago.
That, however, is changing.
Principal Bill Poock told the Mid-Prairie school board last week that students and teachers are using the building a lot more lately.
Poock pointed out that a number of plants are growing in the box planters outside of the building.
“They planted tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, zucchini, sunflowers,” he said. “The kids built all of the raised beds with the help of the high school FFA group.”
Because of the wet spring, many of the plants were started at the high school.
“Our spring was so incredibly wet,” Poock said. “We went a long time when we couldn’t even rototill anything because it was just too muddy.
“We started many of the plants at the high school’s greenhouse last spring. The FFA students came over to plant with the kids and talk about some of the things the plants need.”
He said that one of the groups that has been working on the school garden is Katelyn Hammen’s special education students.
“She is passionate about agriculture and gardening,” Poock said. “She is making a bridge between students who are on (Individual Education Plans) with behavior and academic plans and the school garden. For some of the kids coming out to the school garden weeding or harvesting the vegetables is part of their behavior plan.”
Poock added that the response from the students has been positive.
“They earn breaks throughout the day, and for some of them, they’ve chosen to use their breaks to come out to work in the garden,” he said. “They absolutely love it.”
The school received grant money from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation to upgrade the building.
Poock pointed out that the building, until recently, had no interior walls and only had screen windows.
“We brought electricity to this structure, and we’ve run water to the structure,” he said. “This is a work in progress as we try to get it all up and running.”
This fall, a heating and cooling unit will be installed.
The upgrades will provide more opportunities for teachers.
“There are lots of different ways we could use this space,” Poock said. “A lot of different teachers have a lot of different ideas about how to use this space. Teachers already are planning to come out here for different environmental lessons and different science lessons.
“Once we get started, it’s just going to grow. We want to make sure we’re using it in ways that get kids out here.”