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Indian Creek Middle School now has outside classroom

MINGO JUNCTION — Indian Creek Middle School students can now learn lessons beyond the school walls with an outdoor classroom on the campus.

Principal Holly Minch-Hick was awarded a $1,000 grant from JB Green Team to add picnic benches made of recycled plastic materials. The furniture provides seating for students conducting outdoor science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes on the premises.

“Being an outdoor STEM class, students have engaged in several recycling initiatives,” Minch-Hick said, noting efforts for composting, collecting rain water and studying land, water and air pollution.

“The tables will allow an outdoor classroom setting so students can sit and record data or take notes without having to return indoors,” She said. “The tables can also be utilized by other classes or used as a lunch space when the weather is nice.”

The middle school matched another $728 to the money to purchase the benches, which were placed in a relatively secluded area for learning.

Science teacher Austin Cable said the outdoor facility will come in handy as students learn about the environment.

“The outdoor classroom is not a new concept in general, but it is a new idea here at Indian Creek Middle School,” he said. “The purpose is to incorporate learning in an outdoor environment. This learning can be in normal classes in an outdoor setting or, in our case, we are incorporating learning about outdoor activities and being in the outdoors at the same time.”

He said eighth-graders will spend the first nine weeks of school learning about composting in the outdoor STEM class, where one group will teach their peers about the process and organize collecting compostable materials such as leftovers and scraps from their lunch.

“Students will teach and encourage other students to place their compostables into a bin at lunch, which they will then weigh and place into our outdoor compost pile in the back of the school,” he added. “About 100 students actually take the class but all 158 eighth-grade students will be exposed to this service learning project that diverts trash from the landfill. With the composting project, we will be diverting hundreds of pounds of food that will break down into nutrients that we can use to build soil around the school.”

Cable said it ultimately will be used to plant native flora and create habitats to attract pollinator insects. The classes will focus on helping the Monarch butterfly, which is currently endangered.

He added that the composting project kicked off last year and students collected more than 1,000 pounds of compostable material from the eighth-grade lunches.

“The cafeteria staff saves scraps from fruits and vegetables during each lunch preparation and we are also supported by the janitorial staff, Cable said. “Both groups help us make this project a success.”

Cable said that the school is also partnering with the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District and representative Wendee Dodds will share her knowledge to make the service project even better.

As part of the plan, students will collect, weigh, track and move lunch compostables, add leaves and dead organic materials and mix the pile as needed, then they will identify different types of bugs and organisms that live within the pile and view compost under a microscope to search for microorganisms.

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