- Sponsorship -

Into the Wild Next-door

Grant, Donations Make Outdoor Lab a Reality


Buffered between the Early Education Center and an industrial building is a swath of wilderness complete with trees, brush and a winding creek. It’s the habitat of birds, small mammals and on recent sunny afternoon, kindergartners.

Stumps are made for jumping

“Forts are our forte,” joked Deb Schuitema, a math coach who joined in the effort with physical education teacher Julie Swanson to design the new Outdoor Learning Lab’s natural play area.

Kindergartners were challenged to make their own shelters after listening to a story called “A House is a House for Me,” by Mary Ann Hoberman. They used branches and colorful pieces of cloth to design their shelters. Some added rocks and leaves turned into decor, and, when finished, they went inside their “houses” and peeked out of the sheer material.

For imaginative students, like Gabriella Aquino, wood can become a plate and a rock and leaf, food

Around them, another class joined a representative from Blandford Nature Center in exploring the area for bird habitats. A third class spread out on the grassy hill to read.

“We have had five different classes out here at the same time,” said Swanson, who introduces those in her classes to different ways to use their muscles and develop balance by climbing rocks and jumping from stump to stump. “A year ago, nobody would have come out here.”

The lab, planned for two years, now includes a rock grotto and a sandy play space where toy trucks stay busy excavating. And there’s a nearly complete stage made of logs. Plans are to add a slide built into the hill, a teepee surrounded by native plants, a texture garden and a student-designed nature path.

“We really want to make this part of the kids’ everyday experience,” Schuitema said.

Swanson reads to students before they dash off to build forts

The city of Wyoming, Dykema Excavators Inc., and Tontin Lumber Co. donated rocks, downed trees, other materials and services. Last fall, Women Who Care of Kent County, a group that supports non-profit groups, donated $12,000 to the district for outdoor education.

Kindergartners hoisted up big sticks, adding another layer to a fort, and wrapped material around it.

Adan Hernandez makes a house

“I like making homes,” said Arielly Sanchez. “We can go in them.”

As class ended, Swanson let out a huge, wolf-like howl, signaling to kindergartners that she needed their attention. They howled back, running up from their shelter-building to head back inside.

CONNECT

Blandford Nature Center

District Plans to Transform Undeveloped Space into Outdoor Learning Lab

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Satellite library aims to boost reading for the fun of it

The Kent District Library location opened this week, and is exclusively for East Lee Campus students and their families...

Voters approve bond request by 2-to-1 margin

The approval of the $17.79 million bond will restore and renovate Lee Middle and High School, which was badly damaged by a June 2019 roof collapse...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS