Wellsville – From kindergarten to third graders at Garfield Elementary School there is now an outdoor learning center where they can get some fresh air while studying and learn how plants grow.
The outdoor education center has a pavilion located on a concrete porch that seats eight picnic tables in composite style when it arrives in mid-November. According to Principal Lisa Ferguson, the picnic table will serve as a space where students and teachers can teach. Access to one of the picnic tables will be disabled to accommodate students with disabilities.
Plans for an education center surfaced in 2017 with an empty old house across from the school.
According to Ferguson, thanks to the generosity of members of the public, the homeowner was contacted and an agreement was reached regarding the property.
The Colombiana Territory gang assisted with the project by demolishing buildings on the property and assessing its location.
Ferguson noticed that his neighbors kept clippings of grass in the area.
In 2020, the Land Bank moved the property to the Wellsville School District and work will begin in the fall of 2021 when the inn is built.
Funding for the project was provided by a $5,000 grant from the Land Bank to begin construction. The school then launched a community awareness campaign, starting with a $1,000 donation from Orange/Black Boosters, according to Ferguson.
"Since then, we've only raised about $25,000 to spend on the project," Ferguson said. "The money comes from various grants, individual donations and fundraising."
The work of the Learning Center was carried out by the School Maintenance Team consisting of Ed Swogger, Joe Traina and Jim Bauer.
A learning center shed was purchased to house lawn mowers and gardening tools for students to use in their gardening.
That was last spring and summer, the bed was built behind the suite.
“Every year, from kindergarten through third grade, there will be opportunities to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers,” Ferguson said.
“Our next goal is to get money to buy small greenhouses so that the students can start growing from seed,” he said . "There have been no school district fees yet."
The Learning Center banner was designed by third grader Abigail Cooper. All third graders were given the opportunity to submit designs to the committee and Abigail was selected.
To submit the winning design, Abigail received a $50 gift card from Walmart.
“This project will be completely fenced off for safe and unobstructed access for all of our students,” Ferguson said. "In the spring of 2023, students will begin to learn many new skills."
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