When Edneyville Elementary’s STEM Specialist, Sharon Searcy, applied for a Facebook Community Action Grant in October 2020, she had a vision: an outdoor classroom below the school’s nature trail, complete with convertible bench-desks where students could study, record, and analyze their projects.
This spring, she was thrilled to learn she’d been awarded the grant, but the increased cost of materials had become prohibitive.
“When I originally applied for the Facebook grant, I based the projected cost on prices at that time,” said Searcy. Since then, she said, lumber prices have doubled.
“That is when our community stepped up to help,” she said. “My husband, Mark Searcy, teaches construction at West Henderson High. He and his students are building our raised bed gardens and benches.”
Local excavator Scott Case is donating the grading work, after which point the gardens and furniture from West will be put in place – along with a shade covering that North Henderson High senior Rily Corn is installing as his Eagle Scout project. Sharon Searcy also plans to add wildlife cameras and a weather station, to help students understand how technology is being used on farms.
This Thursday at West, students in Mark Searcy’s Carpentry II and Carpentry III classes stepped around the towering raised bed gardens they’d already completed, to work on the benches.
“It’s got a pergola for looks,” Mark Searcy said, pointing to the top of the raised bed garden structure. “But it will also be functional as a trellis for trailing vines and tomatoes.”
When planning the structures for Edneyville’s outdoor classroom, West junior Zander Youmans said, “We altered a design we found online that worked.”
During class on Thursday, Youmans was installing hinges on one of the benches, which allows it to convert into a desk with an easy flip, or create a table when pushed together with a second bench.
West’s principal, Luke Manuel, said he’s excited to see his students collaborate on a project that helps an elementary school just across town. “It’s schools helping schools within the district,” he said.
“I like to think that other people will appreciate the work that we do, that they will be able to enjoy what we’ve accomplished,” Youmans said.
They most certainly will, according to Sharon Searcy and Edneyville’s principal, Dr. Marsha Justice.
“This outside classroom will allow our Yellow Jackets to watch, wonder, and make curious observations,” said Justice. “They will be exposed to natural processes which include the planting and growth of vegetables and flowering plants, pollination, composting, and much more,” Justice said.
“Math concepts are made practical when students can understand the costs associated with growing vegetables and how much would have to be sold to be profitable,” added Sharon Searcy.
“This joint venture has been a great blessing,” she said. “It’s wonderful to live in such a supportive community.”