Lowe’s Local Heroes Build Outdoor Classroom at Winton Woods Intermediate School

December 13, 2016
Winton Woods City School District

Take one unused courtyard, add in an intermediate school art teacher and principal, mix that together with a group of Lowe’s Local Heroes from the Springdale store, and you have all the ingredients necessary to build a new outdoor classroom at Winton Woods Intermediate School. According to everyone involved, it was the perfect recipe to create a unique educational space for the school’s students and teachers.

WWIS visual arts teacher Aaron Schmits read about the Lowe’s Local Heroes program in a magazine that highlighted another school that was taking steps to improve morale. He proposed the project to Principal Jeremy Day in October 2015 and then approached Ryan Bolen, the Springdale Lowe’s manager at the time, with the idea. Bolen was interested and said he and a team would return the following summer.

After making plans, coming up with material lists, and finalizing the design, Mandy Royal—Lowe’s department manager and the team leader for the project—and a group of Lowe’s Local Heroes showed up in the heat of the summer for three days of planning and three days of hard work, with Schmits joining in. While a design problem with the project stopped work for a couple months, the outdoor classroom was completed in October of this year.

The reclaimed space now includes six 12-foot long benches with adjoined desktops, a small paver patio in a centralized position for the teacher, mulched areas for the students to walk in, shade sails to keep the students cool, and six large planters filled with cold-hardy plants. “All the desk benches and table tops were stained to protect them from water damage,” said Schmits. “The walls were all repainted and a mural depicting ‘WWIS’ in school colors was created as part of the paint job.”

In addition to Royal and Bolen, Springdale Lowe’s employees involved in the program were Lisa Biddulph, Alisha Creech, Amanda Correll, Tim Kakaris, Lindsey Limber, John McCane, Megan Newman, Nick Piening, Debbie Taylor, David Tepe, and Walter Wordlaw. Al Royal also volunteered for the project.

Schmits said many teachers have used the space already but knows it will get a lot more use in the spring when the weather warms up. “The space is available all year round, but I don’t think it will get much use during the cold months,” he said.

“With our school’s transition this year to New Tech Network and project-based learning, we’re re-imagining education by creating a culture that empowers and projects that engage our kids in new ways,” said Day. “This outdoor classroom fits right into how we are giving our students a more engaging education. Our building can be very limiting when it comes to spaces for our kids to work with one another and for our teachers to foster collaboration, but having a learning space like this gives our staff and students a unique space for collaboration.”

“It is important for our students to know we care about the environment that we work and learn in,” said Schmits. “This space also provides a place to be constructive in an outdoor setting. Our students and staff deserve great things, and this project was one small way we could show that.”

“Lowe’s Springdale provided everything from the time, materials and staff members who volunteered to help,” said Day. “They have been absolutely amazing.”

Schmits agreed. “Lowe’s Springdale was not only generous with their time and donations, but with their kindness,” he said. “The commitment of the employees, management and team leader was inspiring, as it is not often we hear of any corporation’s involvement in local schools. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this project come to fruition. It was a joy to swing a hammer with them.”

– See more at: http://www.wintonwoods.org/districtNewsArticle.aspx?artID=12788#sthash.B4jlx7md.dpuf