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Outdoor learning

F.E. Burleson classroom earns certification

The outdoor classroom at F.E. Burleson Elementary School received statewide recognition last week at a certification and dedication ceremony attended by faculty members, students, parents and special guests.
The classroom became the 27th in the state to earn certification from the Alabama Wildlife Federation and a sign was presented by the organization’s president, Greg Lambert, to commemorate the achievement.   He also presented the school with an Outdoor Classroom Activities Kit.
“You have created opportunities for students to get outside of the school and learn about the wildlife habitat and the conservation of our natural resources,” Lambert told those in attendance. “You’re a model for other schools and my hat’s off to you for what you’ve accomplished.”
In her welcoming comments, Principal Sherry Calvert acknowledged  that much has been done to grow the classroom thanks to teachers, parents and many other supporters but pointed out “we’re not through yet. We want this be a space that future generations will use and enjoy.”
Outdoor Classroom Coordinator Debbie Queen recalled that ground was broken for the classroom in 2008. Since then, more than $16,000 in grants and donations have been received and many hundreds of hours of volunteer work have been applied to the project.
“We’ve added a pavilion, stage, greenhouse, fish pond, butterfly garden, walkways, raised flower beds and much more,” she said. “We’ve seen butterflies lay their eggs and watched them hatch out and fly away and planted and cultivated but we’re only at the beginning of our journey.  We still have much sunshine to bask in, outdoor freedoms to enjoy and beautiful flowers to smell.
She then directed the fifth grade class in a rendition of the song “Free To Be You and Me.”
Parents presented Queen with a wooden trellis in appreciation for the leadership and work she has devoted to the project.
Gifts of bird feeders, bird seed and other outdoor garden supplies were presented to students by April LuPardus, a conservation specialist for the Wildlife Federation. She has consulted with the school on the outdoor classroom since its inception.
“It’s amazing to me the vision Mrs. Calvert and Mrs. Queen had for the outdoor classroom,” Lupardus said. “They wanted to provide their students with the opportunity to experience nature, wildlife and gardening outside of the classroom and use the experience as a means of teaching math, social studies, science and other subjects. “What they and others have done is truly a gift to the Hartselle community and a model for other schools to follow.”
Students provided guided tours of the classroom following the program.
Recognized as outdoor classroom partners were Alabama Wildlife Federation, Alabama Department of Conservation  and Natural Resources, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Power Company and National Wildlife Federation.
Supporters were listed as follows: Alabama Wildlife Federation, Outdoor Classroom Grant Program, Burleson PTO, Community donors and volunteers, Sen. Arthur Orr, Impact Landscaping and Design, Southern Roots Landscaping, Ponds for Kids Program, BP, General Electric, Vulcan Materials, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Terry Builders, Morgan County Extension and Lowes.