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Outdoor classrom blossoms at BBES

Barkley Bridge Elementary now has an officially certified Alabama Outdoor Classroom, thanks to the hard work of teachers, students and volunteers who created it last fall.

Julie Murphy, who has children in first and third grade at BBES, said this is something her children and the whole student body can be proud of.

“It gives them the chance to plant seeds and watch them grow,” Murphy said. “It’s something that they won’t forget when they see that plant sprout out of the ground and then grow into something big.”

First grade teacher Joy Thomas first saw the idea several years ago at a conference. She went to principal Susan Hayes and asked about implementing the garden at BBES. Hayes gave her the OK.

Then in the fall, the students, teachers and volunteers in the community stepped forward to make the classroom a reality.

“There was just no way we could have done this without their help,” Thomas said. “I was just amazed at the amount of people who either donated things for the classroom or either gave it to us at a major discount. It just shows you what you can do when everyone works together for a common goal.”

The Alabama Wildlife Federation presented the school with a sign designating it as an Alabama Outdoor Classroom.

Barkley Bridge’s outdoor classroom site includes an assortment of “learning stations” where students can participate in a variety of real-world studies including the following:

• songbird habitat that provides observation opportunities as cavity-nesting birds such as the bluebird use the nesting boxes to raise their young and as numerous migrating birds including the ruby-throated hummingbird use the bird feeders as an extra nutritional source;

• a butterfly garden built in the shape of a butterfly, where students study the life cycle stages of a butterfly and the migration patterns of butterflies like the Monarch butterfly that migrates to Mexico each winter;

• a frog pond where students can study the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs;

• a bog garden where students learn about the importance of wetland ecosystems including the wildlife and plants that utilize these specific ecosystems;

• a rain garden to help students learn about the water cycle, the importance of water conservation, and ways to prevent soil erosion;

• a perennial garden that has a wide variety of plants including bulbs and other flowers for students to study throughout each season;

• a native Alabama plant garden built in the shape of the state of Alabama where students can study plants that were found in Alabama before the settlers came to America;

• raised bed gardens where students learn how to grow, harvest and eat vegetables that provide healthy eating options; and

• a weather station and cardinal directions sign that allows the students to monitor weather patterns and witness how different weather patterns cause changes in the environment and impact local crop production;

• an outdoor pavilion where students can sit with their teachers to discuss the data and observations they have collected in the outdoor classroom site; and

• a wheelchair-accessible nature trail that connects all of the outdoor learning stations so that the students can explore the outdoor classroom.