Mead Community Outdoor Learning Center opens for first assembly
By City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – On July 30, the very first organization meeting was held in the Community Outdoor Learning Center at Mead Elementary School. Sunrise Rotary, who has played a major role in the completion of the space, held their weekly meeting on site.
Wisconsin Rapids teacher Melissa Miller envisioned the outdoor learning space in her 2015 masters degree project. She heard students say they were indoors all weekend playing video games and saw a need for social-emotional wellness and reconnecting with the outdoors.
An action team, including students, teachers, parents, school administrators and community members, was then organized to advocate for a space to provide students and community members opportunities for enrichment in a screen-free outdoor learning environment, addressing the nature deficit and social-emotional needs that children and adults of today are facing.
Students who utilize the multi-sensory learning center will participate in outdoor education and general curriculum lessons.
In 2019, Miller was the recipient of a Voya Unsung Heroes grant, receiving a $2,000 grant for the innovative idea.
As the campaign developed, the learning center was designated to replace the asphalt area behind Mead Elementary Charter School, to include a music and movement area, gathering and teaching area, garden area, climbing area, building area, nature art area, and an open grass area, along with various plantings, trees, and pathways.
Because of the hefty price tag for the project – estimated then at about $97,000 – multiple fundraisers were organized and partners came on board to assist with the project.
Sunrise Rotary is one of those partners. Last October, Sunrise Club Members removed asphalt, assembled pipes, and buried drainage systems.
“The pressure was on to lay concrete prior to the first frost,” Rotary members explain. “Through a grant received by Rotary District 6250 and matching funds from the club, materials such as gazebo, benches, plants were ordered, targeting April 4 as the building date.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic federal and state stay at home orders, April 4 was postponed; materials were stored until activity could safely continue. One member cut the lumber needed at home. Groups of two with masks did the prep work for the gazebo, so after the shut down order, a small group was able to raise the gazebo while a community member built the benches.
“In early June, school, community, and Sunrise members were able to plant over 200 plants and prepare the grass area and raised beds so families could plant vegetables.”
Through the efforts of several community groups, the learning center will be open to students this call.
“It is perfect timing with the limitations imposed by the coronavirus to have the outdoor learning space available,” Rotary members added.