Despite the unexpected challenges that arose during their senior year at Fort Thomas Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Colleen Epperson’s students left behind a legacy at their school through the help of a Kentucky Association for Environmental Education mini-grant, awarded to Epperson at KAEE’s most recent Outdoor Learning Symposium. Epperson, who teaches chemistry and AP environmental science, used the mini-grant to build with her students an outdoor classroom at Highlands High. With the funds from the grant, they were able to purchase plants, bluebird boxes, and a trail camera; these materials and the class’s sweat equity allowed them to lay the foundation for an outdoor learning space that will be enjoyed for years to come. With the onset of COVID-19 and the transition to virtual learning, the students were unable to complete all steps of the project, such as leading local elementary school students through some Project Learning Tree activities in the new outdoor space, but Epperson says she believes they are “well on our way to creating a safe and accessible space for outdoor learning.” “There was a lot that went on over the course of the year,” she says, “although we will not be able to use the space until we are able to assemble again, hopefully in the fall. We were able to add to our existing rain garden new plants, bird feeders, milkweed, and other perennials, bluebird houses, and a clear trail through a field and forest that leads to a creek.” The class also created a comprehensive photo journal for the Outdoor Classroom Project, which they are using to apply for Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools certification for Green Spaces. Learn more about Highlands High and the school's commitment to EE here!
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