By Jill Gosche, firstname.lastname@example.org
SYCAMORE - Students in the Mohawk Local School District are digging in and helping out with a new outdoor learning project that is taking shape behind the school's elementary wing.
Tony Patrizi, a first-grade teacher at Mohawk Elementary School, started putting together Mohawk's Outdoor Education Project about eight months ago.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Anna Russell (left) and Allison Russell, 3-year-old twin sisters, help pick up rocks Friday afternoon as part of Mohawk’s Outdoor Education Project.
"I think it's going very well," he said.
Patrizi said he has been working with Seneca and Wyandot soil and water officials to make the project align to state education standards. He questions why students would learn about plants or animals from reading a textbook when they could learn about plants or animals firsthand.
Patrizi said he sought school board approval of the project in September. With the help of a few teachers, he spent the fall writing grants to see whether he could get money for the project.
How to help
Tony Patrizi, a first-grade teacher at Mohawk Elementary School, is recruiting volunteers to help with the project and said a goal was to get more community involvement in the school. People are needed to help children in the garden during the day or teach them about gardening, animals, plants or the outdoors. Volunteers can contact Patrizi at Mohawk at (419) 927-6222, ext. 4122, or by sending an e-mail to tony.patrizi@
The project is funded entirely through grants and donations. Patrizi estimated the project has received grants and donations totaling $2,500 so far.
During the winter, he revised the applications and started getting materials together.
The work on the outdoor project, which is to encompass about 4 acres, now is beginning. The current components of the project are a garden, trail and native grasses.
Patrizi said the garden covers about 1,000 square feet. Students are to grow food such as sweet corn, pumpkins and garden vegetables, and Friday was a day designated to clean up the space and remove rocks.
"We're having some compost delivered this week to be put in the garden," he said.
Patrizi said a half-mile grassy nature trail is being installed, and 3 1/2 acres of native warm-season grasses could be planted this week or next week. The grasses take up to three years to mature, he said.
Patrizi said Mohawk students will plant a 500-tree windbreak a year from now, and preparation probably will start in September. He also is planning to implement small classroom centers, such as butterfly and rock gardens and a bug habitat.
"These'll actually be outside," he said.
Future components of the project are dependent on grants and donations and include a 25-foot-by-25-foot picnic pavilion and a rain water cistern. Patrizi said he needs to raise about $10,000 for the pavilion and cistern.
"I'm working towards getting a grant," he said.
Patrizi said he is looking for any help he can get with the project.
A brochure he provided states people can become adopt-a-garden volunteers. During the summer, they would adopt part of the garden and care for it either for a day, a week or the summer.
People also can donate time, materials, money and services, according to the brochure.
"This project was created to give teachers the opportunity to expand their teaching beyond the classroom walls," it states. "It will also give the community the opportunity to be a part of the school and the lives of the students."