Photography by Dianne Carroll Burdick
Byron Center — In the wetlands behind Countryside Elementary, a fourth-grader yelled, “Eww, I’ve got apple guts on my shoe!”
Dan Volkers’ students were on the hunt for seeds, and discovered they could be found inside apples growing in a tree just out of reach.
Soon, rain boots and tennis shoes stomped on fallen, rotten apples to retrieve the seeds as one of four needed for their science lesson.
After observing plants and digging through fruit like scientists, the students return to the new outdoor learning pavilion to continue learning about the life cycle of plants.
The 32-by-24-foot structure with a steel roof and concrete flooring houses picnic tables and plenty of space for instructional time. Volkers said more seating and tables will be added as funding is acquired.
The pavilion is the newest enhancement to the school’s natural outdoor learning environment. Volkers’ students get a front-row seat to view the pavilion, right outside their classroom window.
In addition to finding seeds in nature, the fourth-graders chose which seeds they wanted to plant using seed starters and water in a small paper cup. Kale and chives were more popular choices than spinach or arugula.
“It’s so peaceful outside,” Rhys Poorman said. “I’m better at concentrating outside than I am when we’re in the classroom.”
Added Naomi Overbeek, “The fresh air is the best part of being outside.”