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TNC facilitates construction of second cabin for outdoor education

TNC facilitates construction of second cabin for outdoor education
TNC facilitates construction of second cabin for outdoor education
Children at Boulevard Elementary School in Kokomo take part in the Early Childhood Outdoor Education Program, which is expanding to include a second barn, which came from Cedar Farm near Laconia and was reconstructed by Bailey Construction of Central. Elizabeth Rayl

One cabin plus one more cabin equals two cabins. In the case of Boulevard Elementary School, located in Kokomo, and its successful outdoor learning program, it also equals greater opportunities for students to learn problem-solving and team-building skills with more space to grow.

At Boulevard Elementary, students spend half of their day learning in an outdoor classroom, where they are encouraged to get messy, climb trees and dig for worms. While the Outdoor Education program needed to expand physically, The Nature Conservancy also needed to remove old structures from its recently-acquired Wallier Woods Preserve. Knowing of the two conundrums, TNC employees realized a solution.

“One of TNC’s best attributes is its ability to bring different parties to the table,” said Allen Pursell, TNC’s director of forest conservation in Indiana. “In addition to land acquisition, we also leverage conservation by making connections between different entities to achieve mutually beneficial results.”

The Kokomo School Corp. began its Early Childhood Outdoor Education Program at Boulevard Elementary in 2016. The program started with a pre-K class for 4-year-olds and its popularity has seen an expansion through second grade. The program’s growth meant a physical expansion was needed as well; a rustic indoor space is utilized as a base for outdoor learning.

The second cabin, currently being reconstructed at Boulevard Elementary, was brought to Howard County from Harrison County. Before deconstruction, this cabin was located at Cedar Farm outside of Laconia, located along the Ohio River.

Pursell, who lives in Harrison County, knew that Boulevard Elementary was looking for a second cabin. He connected Bailey Construction, a salvager of old cabins, with Kokomo School Corp., and the wheels were put in motion to move the cabin to Boulevard Elementary, an urban elementary school near the heart of Kokomo.

TNC land steward Mike Everidge sought out Michael Bailey to salvage a nearby old barn at Wallier Woods, and the wood from that structure is now incorporated into the cabin’s flooring and mudroom.

The second log cabin will double the capacity of the Early Childhood Outdoor Education Program and will now allow four classes to participate. Hiking, climbing, problem solving and collaboration are all part of the daily “outdoor time” from the Indiana State Standards and Indiana Foundational Standards, which are incorporated into the curriculum and daily lesson plans.

“The Early Childhood Outdoor Education Program was designed based on the success of Forest Kindergartens in Scandinavia,” said Dr. Jeff Hauswald, superintendent of Kokomo School Corp. since 2010 who, prior to that, was assistant superintendent for the South Harrison Community School Corp. “We have found that our children who participate in the Outdoor Early Childhood Program have developed life skills such as collaboration, problem solving, risk taking, creative thinking and artistic expression. These skills transfer to a ‘love of learning for learning’s sake.’ Movement is extremely important for young children. The opportunity to explore, run, jump, splash in mud, rest in the shade and reflect on the shape of clouds and the letters in the sky all support the success of this program.”

Hauswald continued, “The demand for the outdoor program continues to outpace our capacity. Clearly, this unique program is evidence of the importance of connecting students with nature and the important relationship that exists between physical activity and learning.”

And, said Pursell, “being outside feels good, as does seeing our work reach back in time to write the next chapter for conservation.”

Editor’s note: This press release was shared by The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, TNC works to create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. Learn more at nature.org/indiana.

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