By Barbara Cohen
As each day grows warmer and longer, we’re all enticed by the outdoors, and, at LLCA, we’re reminded that we want to make outdoor education and nature studies a more integral part of the educational experience for our Raptors. Currently, we are working on several initiatives in this regard:
We are expanding and developing our outdoor classroom capacity and planting a large pollinator garden. With help from community members and parent volunteers, the pollinator garden has native species of plants that attract native pollinators. This garden also doubles as an outdoor classroom with tree stump seats, an outdoor platform for the teacher, and whiteboard for lessons. The school is working on making this pollinator garden a monarch waystation that is nationally recognized. In addition to honey bees, monarch butterflies are pollinators that allow students to learn about the NC standards in science from the textbook to the real world around them. Students are able to watch the life cycle of monarch butterflies and experience the production of honey from the hives.
It will also be a place where students and teachers can engage in lessons, readings, and hands-on learning, right outside the classrooms. This garden will contribute to our school in the following ways:
The rain garden will help address minor drainage issues affecting the school parking lot.
The plants will serve as a means to create a more inviting appearance to the nearly blank canvas of the school grounds.
The plants and wildlife they attract will be an excellent resource for educational purposes to serve our k-12 students.
The hope is that with and through committed community partners, the garden will thrive for many years to come, just as our school has grown over the last ten years.
We are also introducing plants of native species on our hiking trails and working on a year-by-year field trip schedule that will ensure that our students are able to visit some of the most beautiful and ecologically-significant sites in our local and regional areas.
If you have an interest in helping out in any of these areas, please let us know. We invite you to contact a member of the administrative team or one of our PTO officers. We are always grateful for any help that you can provide.
Our community and our students will actively participate in the installment, upkeep, and care of the garden. Through this participation and increased knowledge, concern and caring for our local environment will be fostered.
Work is also underway on the New Outdoor Education Center, a plan developed by the school in close collaboration with Vic Knight of Knight Strategies.
Once built, students will enjoy the benefits of sunshine and the refreshing connection to nature while participating in outdoor learning. Connecting kids to the outdoors is one key in preserving physical and mental well-being, a natural springboard for academic success.
The Outdoor Education Center will include:
The African BOMA dates back to pre-Colonial times and was used to protect livestock and fortify homesteads. To celebrate this architectural history, we have recreated these structures as a unique experience for outdoor dining or classroom activities.
Space is provided for 36 students at a time and the circular shape allows for easy visibility of teaching instructions.
At the center of each BOMA lives a one of a kind tree, sculpted out of iron and covered with a green shade fabric to mimic the canopy of a tree.
The central garden features nine raised beds constructed from decorative concrete blocks. Each of these beds will be assigned to a different school grade. The raised beds will aid teachers with hands-on learning for students, allowing them to immerse themselves in the design, planting, caring for, and harvesting of their edible gardens.
The gardens will also double as classroom space, featuring a raised platform in the central bed. The platform creates an ideal location to instruct students while being visible from all areas. The garden bed walls create perfect seating spots for students, as does the green artificial lawn encasing the central platform. This will make for an ideal spot for teachers and students alike – surrounded by the fragrance and colors of nature.
The gentle sloping lawn of our outdoor classrooms allow for easy visible instruction for teachers. The two artificial lawn areas are each 30×30, replicating a typical classroom size. The back side of the garden trellises were utilized to incorporate built-in chalkboards for classroom activities.
LLCA is grateful for the support of Tim Edwards Landscaping, the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and Keys Open Doors Foundation for its contributions thus far to the project.
Support for the new Outdoor Learning Center is an ideal year-end contribution and tax deduction. Donors may contribute online via PayPal at LLCharter.org, write a check directly to LLCA c/o the Raptor Fund for Outdoor Learning at 1058 Island Creek Dr., Lake Lure, NC 28746, or contact School Director Barbara Cohen directly to discuss the project in greater detail: email@example.com
Contributed by Barbara Cohen, School Director, Lake Lure Classical Academy