In 2007, we invested, via our Sycamore Auction Fund-An-Item donations, in building an outdoor science lab for our students, with Judith Mills serving as our Outdoor Education Coordinator. Included in the plan for the Outdoor Lab were many varieties of plants and flowers for the students to study, and a development of the lab in the following years.
Our Outdoor Education program includes school programs that focus on Monarch Butterflies hatching, a bug hunt, study of trees, weather stats collection, nature journals and many other nature-based studies.
In the past year, Mills planted Swampy Milkweed, which is where the Monarch’s lay their eggs. Sycamore students rescue those plants – eggs intact – and protect them from birds that might prey on the eggs. Judith and the students watch the progress and development of the butterfly, and it leads to an eventual release back into the wild (our outdoor facilities) after they emerge.
There is a school-wide composting initiative, including all of our lunch waste that would normally go into garbage bags. The compost containers are in our outdoor lab. The students also have student-led recycling system in place and Sycamore has also installed rain barrels to catch rainwater for irrigation of our garden.
SYCAMORE OUTDOOR LAB TIMELINE
2007: Initial concept drawing and path construction
2008: Pond installation and pavilion built
2009: Short Grass Prairie added, including 1,000 plants, with more than 20 different species. Kids planted the plants over a two-day period
2010: Rain barrels added to capture rain for use as irrigation. Climbing rocks and compost bin added
2011: Bird feeders added, and planted swampy milkweed plants to attract Monarch butterflies