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Thinking outside the classroom – Park Elementary School creates a new gardening space for students to learn

Coronavirus in Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) – Throughout the pandemic, schools across the state have had to think outside the box to come up with creative ways to safely teach their students. A Great Bend elementary school is thinking outside the classroom.

What started as a dream and a sketch has now become a reality after dozens of Great Bend community members teamed up to create an outdoor learning space for Park Elementary students.

”We didn’t know COVID was going to happen and this was still our plan. But because of that, we’ve been able to get the kids outside, and they just love it,” said Phil Heeke, Principal of Park Elementary. “The kids are excited about being out here, and they get mask breaks. That’s the important thing. They get to go out of the classroom, they get to come out here. These benches are all designed to be six feet apart.”

Eight months of hard work turned this space into a garden and today it’s a safe learning environment for kids.

“It just kind of came together and it was an opportunity to be outside and we didn’t have to wear our masks, so that was really nice,” said Kara Boone, Co-President of Park Elementary Booster Club.

The school raised more than $4,000 to make this project possible. Private donors, local businesses, and state grants supported the effort.

Students are now learning about composting, irrigation, wind power, and native wildlife and plants.

“We wanted the kids to grow and to be outside, and to grow things, and touch the dirt, and get out of their classrooms and have just a different experience at school,” said Boone.

The space has eight garden beds, one for each class, and is able to seat around 20 students comfortably at a time while maintaining social distancing.

For more information on the project, click here.

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