Rewind two months and the area along Cantrell Road outside of Acworth Elementary School was a quiet green space, disconnected from where students were actively learning. Now, fast forward back to November 7 and the area bustled with more than 30 volunteers shoveling dirt, carrying large pieces of wood, planting trees, constructing picnic tables, and digging a pond.
Volunteers with wheel barrels weaved in and out of raised plant beds, trying not to bump into other wheel barrels and volunteers charged with carrying bulky cuts of wood and bags of concrete. Two volunteers used brightly colored paint to transform plain logs into welcoming seats.
Amid the ant hill of volunteers, Acworth students gathered around tables to create art for their new garden space. Soon the students will be doing a lot more than decorating rocks, they will be actively learning in the outdoor space, which was transformed by volunteers from OutTeach, Target, and AT&T.
The outdoor classroom is courtesy of a three-year partnership between Acworth Elementary, OutTeach and its corporate partners, like Target and AT&T. As part of the $150,000 partnership, OutTeach not only coordinated the supplies and volunteers for the Big Dig day at Acworth, but the group will also return to help Acworth teachers learn how to incorporate the outdoor space into their lesson plans.
According to representatives from OutTeach, teachers say that student engagement skyrockets when they bring them outside. That’s the goal with Acworth’s new space too. The outdoor space will serve as an extension of the students’ STEM lessons taking place inside the school building. One of the volunteer’s favorite features in the new school garden is the Earth science station. The Acworth garden will also include a buddy bench and little library. Students will be able to learn about pollinators and study insects inside the aptly-named “Insect Hotel.”
Bat houses are part of garden design, which originated in Acworth’s Design and Dine event in September when teachers, students, and parents were able to provide input on the new garden space.
On the day of the Big Dig, volunteers worked through the misty morning and into the afternoon to make the Acworth’s community design come to life. Although volunteers will continue past the Big Dig day to add final touches to the garden space, the once unused area is ready to welcome students. It’s ready to welcome students to a world of hands-on learning.
“This garden is not only going to be here for current students, but it will be here for future students. Thank you so much,” Principal Bertha Nelson told the volunteers.