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Madison elementary’s outdoor classroom sprouts in one day

MADISON – Planning, determination and tons of ‘sweat equity’ combined to produce an outdoor classroom in only one day on campus at Madison Elementary School.

Madison elementary conducted their Outdoor Classroom Day in partnership with Alabama Outdoor Classroom program on April 25. Students and their parents, teachers, staff and community volunteers built and planted a sunflower garden, butterfly environment, frog bog, raised vegetable gardens and other learning stations for outdoor experiments.

Shifts of students and volunteers cycled through work shifts from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Principal Melissa Mims said.

The Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program is a partnership among Alabama Wildlife Federation, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Alabama Cooperative Extension System. This alliance provides technical assistance for schools who want to develop sustainable outdoor classrooms as teaching tools, April Waltz said. Waltz is Conservation Education Specialist with Alabama Wildlife Federation.

The planning committee for Madison elementary’s outdoor classroom visualized and coordinated the project. Along with Mims, the committee includes Carolyn Brelsford, Deb Fuller, Karen Hartselle, Bonnie Howard, Shannon Lilienthal, Debbi Marsh, Alexander Roberts and Beth Woodard. Waltz provided technical assistance in design and assisted during the workday.

Throughout their Outdoor Classroom Day, students and volunteers worked side-by-side to create a living laboratory, which will feature learning stations for students to engage in hands-on activities.

For example, Madison elementary students will study and report songbird and butterfly observations on the Journey North website at learner.org/jnorth. They will learn about creating wildlife habitats and attracting pollinators to support agriculture in Northeast Alabama with their butterfly gardens.

The classroom committee used funds and materials from a Lowes ToolBox for Education grant and PPG grants, along with donations from parents, First Bible Church Madison, Vulcan Materials and City of Madison Public Works Department.

One goal of the Alabama Outdoor Classroom program is to allow students of all ages to use multiple-disciplinary skills in a fun and exciting environment. Currently, more than 300 Alabama schools are developing outdoor classroom sites with this program.

For more information, call Waltz at 256-882-9183 or visit alabamawildlife.org.

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