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The community can now access an outdoor learning lab at Westfield Washington Elementary



Westfield, Indiana – The Duke Energy Foundation awarded a contribution of $15,000 to the Westfield Education Foundation. The construction of an outdoor learning lab near to Shamrock Springs Elementary School is being funded.

The 7-acre wetland tract that will become the Shamrock Outdoor Learning Lab will serve as an educational green area to encourage contact with nature and foster healthy relationships among students and community members.

“We created literally multiple habitats across this seven-acre. We have the deciduous forest. We planted 300 trees in one area. You walk out from the deciduous forest area and you walk into a prairie grass area and then you have the wetlands as well,” said Robb Hedges, principal, “So, that’s multiple eco-systems that use to be all over Indiana, and it’s all going to be in this one small little area.”

A pond, wetland creatures, prairie grass, flowers, a trail, and recently planted seedling trees are all currently present in the green space. On the pond, a walkway is now being built; it will be finished in the spring of 2023. The organization will use the grant money to buy floating islands that will be placed close to the boardwalk.

Studies, according to Hedges, reveal that pupils who learn outside grow in self-awareness, independence, self-assurance, and creativity—qualities they want for their Shamrock community. They appreciate how the Duke Foundation is making their dream a reality.

“I think it’s going to help a lot with the mental health of our students. Our Shamrock students and also students across the whole district where gosh, let’s just get them outside and just take a little breath of fresh air,” Hedges said.

The project’s long-term effects on the neighborhood excite Kim Vogelgesang, manager of the Duke Energy Foundation.

“We are pleased to support Westfield Washington Schools with their Shamrock Outdoor Learning Lab,” she said. “This will serve the community for generations by enriching the development of the green space and managing the watershed through wetland creation and habitat restoration.”

According to Ashley Knott, executive director of the Westfield Education Foundation, the facility will be open to the general public.

“You couldn’t ask for anything better that’s sustainable, that is something that will teach kids, adults, seniors, anyone can come to use this space here eventually once it matures,” Knott said.

Students will be able to follow the development throughout time, and according to Hedges, they’re always looking to expand. They are seeking collaborations.

“We’re looking at getting some solar panels out there as well. It’s going to be able to power the outside area for our outside classrooms,” Hedges said.


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