Bonner Springs Elementary’s outdoor learning area nearly complete
The finishing touches are being put in place to add a whole new dimension to Bonner Springs Elementary students’ learning experience.
The school’s new Outdoor Learning Area, a project at least three years in the making, is preparing for its ribbon cutting on May 2. Beau Bragg, physical education teacher, and Mendy Brents, school counselor, say the 1.5-acre wooded space in the southwest corner of the school’s property is nearly complete.
“It will be beautiful in a couple of weeks, we hope,” Brents said.
The idea came about because the school wanted to get students out of the classroom for hands-on learning. Bragg and Brents wanted to include some team-building ropes course stations, so they went to both Kansas University and Kansas State University to view low ropes courses and create a plan for the area.
At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, the school learned it had received a $15,000 grant from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. With the Lowe’s grant came assistance from a Lowe’s project manager, who helped coordinate with community volunteers.
For example, the plan called for an amphitheater for music and other class presentations. College students volunteering through Lowes built much of the amphitheater stage, and a teacher’s relative, who has construction experience, is helping put the finishing touches on it.
The rest of the area relied on local volunteers. School families helped clear the space on two workdays, and others readily helped when called upon.
“It’s just been little bits of help at a time,” Bragg said.
The school also received a $2,500 grant from the Olathe-based Terracon Foundation in the fall to help finish out the project, including purchasing 15 benches constructed from recycled tires from a Kansas company for amphitheater seating.
Bonner Springs High School students helped construct and install much of the ropes course elements.
The team-building stations include the Maze, a series of poles that can be used to create a rope maze or used for a math lesson; Mountain Games, where students use boards and other items to get their team from one wooden platform to another; The Shipwreck, where students will have to work together to balance a seesaw-like platform; and
Bermuda Triangle, which will have tight-rope-like wires strung between three large poles, but will only be used for older students and faculty.
One of the first areas completed was the picnic bench area and storage shed just west of the faculty parking lot.
“That’s already been used a lot,” Brents said. “We’ve had teachers go out there and plant flowers with kids in containers, and I’ve seen art lessons out there.”
The area also includes a learning lab for outdoor science projects, reading areas with boxes built by Boy Scouts to hold books, and a tree debris pile that was purposely left in its natural state, as a ground hog has taken up residence there.
Once Mother Nature takes over, Bragg and Brents say that the area will feel a world away from the nearby school and staff parking lot.
“You won’t really be able to see anything, when this all starts blooming,” Brents said.
The school has invited everyone who helped with the project to the ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. May 2, which will feature live music and food.