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‘Outdoor classroom’ gets OK PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Nocerini   
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 1:23 PM

A diagram shows the Green Committee’s plans for the north end of West Iron’ school campus, including a meeting/teaching stump circle, a covered play area, balance beams, climbing boulders and a grassy native planting area.
IRON RIVER—A proposal to beautify a corner of the school campus was approved in concept by the West Iron County School Board at its monthly meeting here April 15.
The proposal came from the district’s Green Committee, which includes Maggie Scheffer, Malissa Eagloski, Melody Harper and Tina LaVacque.
Scheffer and Eagloski started by showing a flag the group recently received, identifying West Iron as a “Official Michigan Green School.” It is the first year the school has met the criteria needed for the designation.
“There were probably 20 items on the list,” Scheffer said. She told the board about the fifth year of its paper recycling program—working with Trico, it recycles about 2,000 pounds of waste paper each year. Last year, every class at Stambaugh Elementary planted a tree, with other grades getting involved in the project.
The new “Greening Our Schoolyard” project will be built in the northeastern corner of the Stambaugh campus, north of the elementary school.
Committee members showed a preliminary site plan to create an area that can be used as an outdoor classroom, using natural materials and native plants. A 3-D model was passed around.
“This isn’t exactly like this drawing,” Scheffer noted, “but it gets you excited looking at it at what might develop there.”
Scheffer said the plan came from high school campers at Covenant Point Bible Camp. Their art director asked her about community service work. She showed them the trees planted last year and the area they wanted to develop.
“They took measurements, they listened to what I had to say about what I envisioned, and then they came back with a drawing.”
Right now, the area has broken shrubs, and standing water is a frequent problem. Still, younger students “are drawn to that area like it’s a magnet.” Part of the work involves putting in drain stone and filling the area with permeable material. The surface would not have to be mowed, she noted.
At this time, there is no cost estimate—Scheffer said the Green Committee wanted the board’s go-ahead before moving ahead. The next step is to get the estimate, locate materials and talk to area companies.
The Green Committee will look for in-kind support (from logging, construction and landscaping firms) and financial support (grants and possible support from the school district).
Last year’s tree planting was funded by the WIC Foundation and the Glacial Gardeners group from Florence, with no outlay from the schools. All the classes were involved, and “The students have taken a lot of ownership out there.”
Eagloski said the project would start this summer and continue until completed. Scheffer said this summer may mainly focus more on planning and getting prices, with more of the actual work targeted for 2014.
The idea is to integrate the science curriculum into the outdoor setting, “so we have an area on our playground that is known as our outdoor classroom.” It could include a butterfly garden, native plant species and developing wildlife habitat, such as nesting boxes.
The board had no problem approving the project’s concept.


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