CPNRD Provides Funds for Outdoor Classroom at Dodge Elementary

The Grand Island Independent: Thursday, February 16, 2017 8:43 pm

In a ceremony on Thursday morning at Dodge Elementary School, Marcia Lee of the Central Platte Natural Resources District presented a check for $1,667 to create a monarch butterfly habitat at the school.

The NRD board recently approved an application from the Grand Island Public Schools’ Success Academy for the program.

The outdoor classroom will be a joint project of the Success Academy, Dodge Elementary, Skills Academy and the Roots & Shoots program.

The students will use the outdoor classroom to apply the scientific method in real-world observation and data collection.

Also at the event, it was announced that the GIPS Roots & Shoots clubs will host Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a United Nations messenger of peace, for a public presentation at 7 p.m. March 9 at the Grand Island Senior High auditorium.

The event will be free but will require a ticket. Tickets will be available starting at 8 a.m. Feb. 21 at the GIPS Kneale Administration Building.

Goodall is well-known for her nearly six decades of research on the wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, where she made the discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools, redefining human understanding of animals.

In 1977, Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute to advance her work around the world. In 1991, she founded Roots & Shoots, the institute’s global program that guides young people in nearly 100 countries in becoming conservation activists.

She now speaks about the threats facing chimpanzees, environmental crises and her reasons for hope. In her books and speeches, she emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things and the collective power of individual action.

The Grand Island Public Schools Roots & Shoots clubs are active at Dodge Elementary, Barr Middle School and Grand Island Senior High. Students in the school district’s clubs have been recognized at the state and national level for their work and research.

Success Academy Principal Ken DeFrank said the school is excited to receive the funding for the outdoor classroom at Dodge Elementary. The funding will go toward the material and labor to construct the classroom. Vlcek Gardens in Chapman will provide project design and construction. Pheasants Forever will present lessons for students to apply their knowledge in field observations by participating in national monarch butterfly field studies.

The outdoor classroom will cover approximately 800 square feet and will be completed this spring.

“We will be planting native pollinator plants and milkweed, which is the main food source for the monarch butterfly,” DeFrank said.

He said millions of acres of habitat for the monarch butterfly have been lost across the country.

“Slowly but surely, people from all around the country are establishing these little habitats to reclaim some of that lost habitat,” DeFrank said.

Success Academy students will help with construction of the outdoor classroom, and Dodge Elementary and Skills Academy students will help with the planting.

“It will be ready after Mother’s Day,” DeFrank said.

Lee said NRD officials are excited to help the students learn more about natural resources. The NRD has provided funding toward 14 outdoor classrooms since 2001.

“We do that because we really do believe that students learn from nature,” she said. “It is a good way to get students outside and understand the natural resources around them.”

DeFrank said the goal of the project is to help students understand how the loss of habitat impacts species, such as the monarch butterfly.

“But it is also an outdoor classroom,” he said. “We believe at Grand Island Public Schools that your classroom isn’t four walls but the world. We really want to start building that capacity for our students in the district.”

Jan Tell, an integration specialist at Dodge, is the elementary coordinator for the Roots & Shoots program.

She said the goal of the program’s environmental education is making the prairie “a better place for both native and migrating species.” The outdoor classroom will be an important aid for a hands-on approach to what they are learning in the classroom.

“It helps in applying what we are doing in school and gives the students a chance to do something in the world,” Tell said.

Fifth-grader Briannah Kutschkau, a member of Roots & Shoots, said the outdoor classroom is important.

“We want to make the world a better place,” she said.