We are pleased to report on the very first completion of a Rural Schools Collaborative Grants in Place project. Teachers, students, parents, and community members all came together to create an outdoor learning classroom for Chebanse (IL) Elementary School. With the support of a $1,000 Grants in Place award and many volunteer hours, second grade teacher Michelle Cunningham and her students helped coordinate a project that reminds one of yesteryear's barn raisings.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank the Rural Schools Collaborative for accepting my grant application and providing funds to build an outdoor classroom at Chebanse Elementary School," said Cunningham. She added that she truly appreciates "the opportunity to make our school environment positive for the students, staff, and their families."
The project was completed in two phases. Last spring, school and community members met at the school to remove overgrown plants and debris of a neglected butterfly garden. According to Cunningham, "the plants within the butterfly garden were transplanted around the school. The area was cleared to allow for a patio to be laid." Later in the summer, a local landscaper assisted with laying the patio and planting flowers and bushes.
"I have since taken my class outside to the area to discuss how everything was completed and to learn about the different plants surrounding the area." Cunningham added, "It was a great introduction to our plant unit for science."
The second graders' stakeholdership in the project is not limited to academics, however. Cunningham explains: "Our goal is to create a fundraiser to earn money for the purchase of benches for the outdoor classroom. My class will also be writing letters to local businesses and groups asking for donations and/or sponsorships."
Planning, community engagement, interdisciplinary learning, and student ownership--sounds like purposeful place-based education to us. Congratulations to Michelle Cunningham and her Chebanse Elementary School students and colleagues!
Chebanse Elementary School 2nd graders enjoy their outdoor classroom. Chebanse has a population of 1,035 and is located southwest of Chicago, just south of Kankakee.