Restored Nature Trail Honors Deb Chamberlin

Teachers and community members transformed tragedy into a blessing for students at Roguewood Elementary School.

Volunteers revived a nature trail behind the school that had fallen into disuse and named it after the woman who had led its original creation. The Deb Chamberlin Memorial Nature Trail honors a former Roguewood parent and Rockford Board of Education member, who died in a 2006 accident at Yellowstone National Park.

Chamberlin’s husband, Gary, attended the recent dedication of the reconditioned trail, which now includes two outdoor classrooms and tools for teaching students about nature. Roguewood teachers Eric Nephew and Mark Schlaudt led efforts to restore the trail with volunteers from the PTO and donations from scouting groups and businesses.    

QR codes along the trail link to field guides and a trail map

Nephew said it only made sense to dedicate the project to Deb Chamberlin after all the work she had done to establish the trail in 1997.

“She was very involved in Roguewood,” Nephew said. “This was her pet project. It meant so much to have Mr. Chamberlin at the grand opening.”

A Place of Nature and Nurture

Roguewood houses 650 students from developmental kindergarten through fifth grade. It’s also home to the district’s Spanish Immersion and autistic magnet programs.

Besides clearing out trees and restoring the trail, volunteers added new entrances and learning areas. The “Room One-O-Tree” shed is roomy enough for a class to meet inside. A picnic table, benches and bird feeders, built with help from North Rockford Middle School woodworking students, provide an outdoor place to sit and learn.

Ten student nature bags contain compasses, binoculars, magnifying glasses, and bird and tree field guides. Teachers get a bird calling system, while QR codes hung along the trail link learners to field guides and a trail map.  

Backpacks contain compasses and other outdoor aids for studentsParents, students and teachers all pitched in to create the trail, helped by grants from the Rockford Education Foundation and Lowe’s along with donated mulch from Cannonsburg Wood Products, Nephew said. Teachers and students will use the area “as their own nature center” – a place to learn about plants and animals, take a walk, or sit and read or listen to the birds.

“We want them to get out there and use those nature packs, (and for teachers) to take their students out to explore wildlife,” Nephew said. “We feel very lucky and blessed to have such an amazing resource here in our backyard.”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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