Digging a classroom

Published 12:33 am Thursday, April 30, 2009

Students at Straughn Middle School got a chance to dig up a little history, then make some history of their own Wednesday as they installed an open pond at the school’s campus.

The pond was made possible through the “Ponds for Kids” program, in partnership with the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program. Students worked from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., helping to dig the foundation for the 11-foot-by-16-foot pond and also worked on the landscaping for the area.

“We want to try and have every student at Straughn Middle School be a part of this project,” said Sherri Williams, an eighth grade teacher at SMS who served as an outdoor classroom representative. “We want them to have pride in this project and be happy to say, ‘we did this.’”

Lee Vought, of Vought Water Gardens of Decatur, helped provide technical assistance for the students as they built the outdoor pond.

“We’ve done projects like this across Alabama,” he said. “I believe this is about the 42nd pond I’ve done as a part of Ponds for Kids. It’s very exciting to see these students get involved in the community and give back to their school.”

Vought pointed out that the pond would be utilized for a variety of subjects, and not simply science. In fact, the students experienced some history as they were digging the hole for the pond. After removing the layers of soil, they encountered some bricks that were left behind from a previous school that burned down in the early 20th century.

“They can also see the bands of soil and the different colorations, and learn that those bands are from different time periods,” Vought said.

The pond was completed around 2 p.m., at which point Vought added 16 koi fish to the water and a rock waterfall was turned on for the first time. SMS students completed most of the work during the day, including digging the hole for the three-leveled pond, laying rocks for the border and adding gravel and straw to give the area a natural landscape.

“I think it’s cool because I can say that I helped with it and so did every one else,” SMS eighth grader Laken Harris said. “I’m hoping that maybe we can have some classes out here some time.”

Doyle Keasal, with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, also helped monitor the project.

“This is just a great thing because it gives these kids a feeling of accomplishment and working together as a team,” he said. “They’ll be able to bring their kids back here some day and say, ‘I helped build this pond.’

“Many classrooms in the future are going to use this area, and they’ll always be able to say that they helped make it happen.”

For more photos from the project day, visit our Spotted gallery by clicking here.