Pleasant Valley Elementary celebrates outdoor classroom
by Paige Rentz
Members of the Pleasant Valley Elementary School community gathered outside last week to celebrate the recognition of its most natural of learning environments.

The school’s outdoor classroom has received state certification from the Alabama Outdoor Classroom program, the third in Calhoun County to receive such a designation, said Principal Teresa Johnson.

Students have been enjoying learning opportunities in the outdoor classroom for three years, and the school has just expanded the space by adding a patio and seating area to provide students a place to work and write, thanks to funds from the state legislature.

A pavilion built with the help of funds from County Commissioner Rudy Abbot provided a place for sitting, Johnson said, but students needed a place where they could complete written assignments related to their work in the outdoor classroom.

Johnson said students from kindergarten to sixth grade utilize the outdoor learning space for measuring plant growth, becoming aware of environment around them and talking about the life cycles of plants and aquatic ponds.

The Ambassadors for Earth, a group of about 15 fifth and sixth graders, work to maintain the space, which includes caring for Koi fish, turtles and bullfrogs and keeping up with composting piles, said Johnson.

The Calhoun County Extension Service, Johnson added, has been a huge part of the process to create the classroom, providing advice on planning and incorporating indigenous plants.

The Pleasant Valley Community has taken an interest in the project. “Our community has been involved in the whole process getting this established and built,” she said.

The Alabama Outdoor Classroom program is sponsored by the Alabama Wildlife Federation, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Power and Discovering Alabama.
© 2012