School receives $15K grant for outdoor lab
Soon, Bonner Springs Elementary School students will be doing a little less of their learning inside the walls of their building.
The school learned at the beginning of the school year that it had received a $15,000 grant from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation to create an outdoor learning area at the school. Once plans for the area are complete, the school will be seeking help from the community to construct components of the learning area.
The school obtained the grant through the efforts of Beau Bragg, physical education teacher, and Mendy Brents, school counselor. They said the idea for the outdoor area has been a long time in the making. It came about soon after the school began using the Expeditionary Learning program in 2006.
“About a year later, we kinda got together and talked about an outdoor learning area, because E.L. is all about field experience and hands-on and getting out there and doing, and we thought it’d be pretty cool to have an area here at BSE to do some of those things,” Bragg said.
The school had the land — a wooded area of about 1.5 to 2 acres on the southeast corner of its property — but forming a plan and finding the funding took time.
First, Bragg and Brents went to both Kansas University and Kansas State University to view low ropes courses that they wanted to include for team-building exercises. They also decided they wanted to create an amphitheater for music and other class presentations, with a wooden stage and benches made from trees.
Plans also call for benches and hammocks for a reading area and a butterfly garden, with the possibility of more items in the future.
“As ideas come, we’ll just add as we go, I think,” Bragg said.
They found a possible source of funding when a parent mentioned the grants provided through Lowe’s, but the next challenge was finding time to write the application for the grant — they tried once but were waylaid by other responsibilities.
“We kept trying to get together and get a grant out, and we finally got together in December where we actually could focus on it,” Brents said.
When applying, they had to provide an itemized plan for supplies, layout and use of volunteers. Under the requirements of the grant, they have two years to complete the work and must continue to report their progress to Lowe’s.
The Kansas City, Kan., Lowe’s will have a design manager meet with Bragg and Brents next month to see how the store can help execute the plan in a way that also maintains the natural environment of the wooded area.
Once Lowe’s determines what it can provide, the school will rely on help from the community to complete the learning area.
“We have a lot of parents that are interested; we had a clear-out day last fall and had a quite a few dads out here to help clear out the area and see what we had,” Bragg said.
Once they are ready for construction, Bragg and Brents said they also hope to enlist the help of local businesses, high school students and the Bonner Beautiful Commission.