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Earth Day and Outdoor Classroom Celebrated in Madison County


Dr. Donna Goode, Principal of Owens Cross Roads ( in green)welcomes ET Volunteers and other visitors to the school's outdoor classroom pond.

By Kathy Walker, SWCD DAC in Madison, Co., and Missy Ming Smith, Director, Information and Community Relations, Madison County Commission

How do you excite young students to learn about earth sciences all year long and not just on Earth Day? What if students and faculty could also learn that the environment must be protected by becoming personally involved?

At Owens Cross Roads, a Pre-K-6 Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Elementary School in Southeast Madison County, faculty and students are doing just that.  They have tagged it the "learn and serve project."

The rich soil from their 4 floors worm hotel is used in the school vegetable garden. The vegetables are picked and shared with families who need additional food supply.

Flowers are grown in the school green house and are picked and shared with a nursing home nearby to brighten residents’ days.

The school has fish pond, a turtle habitat, a tree house and better yet, an outdoor pavilion complete with white marker boards, so the entire school classrooms can learn in an outdoor setting about earth science!

The Owens Cross Roads Elementary School, has worked on this concept for more than a year. “We want our students to learn that the environment is their responsibility, that their world must be protected, and that requires active involvement," says Principal Dr. Donna Goode. "We believe that serving and doing our part goes right along with learning. This is a team effort with community and parent involvement, plus federal and local grants and faculty innovation.” 



(above) Davina Mann, ODC Coordinator, helps students set butterflies free that they raised from cocoon state.

(left) Fuzzy is growing in the ODC. 

Kathy Walker, SWCD DAC, of Madison County worked with the kindergarten, first, and fourth graders on special projects timed to be ready for the Earth Day celebration.

The younger children made "earth caterpillars." This hands-on activity engaged the students,” says Walker. They stuffed rich soil, seed and fertilizer into a stretch of panty hose, kinked it, and watered and fertilized it.  After Mother Nature worked her magic, fuzzy caterpillars appear! (the grass seed that grew is the fuzz.)

The fourth graders worked on an outdoor amphitheater with a stage for outdoor performances. They planted crepe myrtles to provide shade for the spectators.

The students set free butterflies that they had raised in the classroom.   To their great joy, the released butterflies lit on the beautifully colored flowers that the students had raised from seed and planted in the ODC.

They have plant and birdhouse cams are connected to a large screen television indoors.  Students can watch what the birds are doing in the birdhouse without disturbing the birds.  Using the plant cam they can watch a plant grow in time lapse photography–how high-tech and cool is that?

All of the student,s and faculty's efforts were recognized at the Earth Day ceremony.  The  children showed how exciting learning can be!

The outdoor classroom is still growing well beyond Earth Day. Students will add a bog, a frog lodge, and a songbird and butterfly habitat.

The Outdoor Classroom was completed using grants and volunteers from the school and community. 

(l-r) Mike Roden, RC&D coordinator and
Anthony Hudson, NRCS DC, listen to presentations with the students.

Mike Roden is standing by a rock that is used as a classroom tool.
Plant and birdhouse cams show students
the progress of each in real time.