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Reprinted from The Hawk Eye, April 29, 2013 (with permission)
LHG member Karla Mundt pulls weeds during a work session at the Aldo Leopold Middle School outdoor classroom. (photo by John Lovretta/The Hawk Eye)
Pull and plant
Leopold group cleans up outdoor classroom.
By CHRISTINIA CRIPPES | firstname.lastname@example.org
Before school recesses for the summer, however, the Leopold Heritage Group will leave the grounds weed-free and full of new trees.
On Sunday afternoon, when temperatures reached 70 degrees, volunteers worked to clear the area and prepare for future work.
“I just like the project,” said George Gruenther, a member of the Leopold Heritage Group, who was busy digging holes to plant 15 trees on the eastern edge of the site. “It’s a great opportunity for people in Burlington.”
Gruenther is helping to create a prairie environment in Burlington. He added he looks forward to seeing wildlife wandering the area.
Karla Mundt, heritage group member and rural Burlington resident, confessed she should be working on cleaning her own yard but missed other opportunities to help with the outdoor classroom. So, she took an hour to help out at the school grounds.
“I just feel glad to help out,” she said, adding the outdoor classroom is an educational opportunity for students.
She said she has a spiritual connection to nature, which was fostered by growing up near the Leopolds’ home.
Steve Brower, landscape architect and Leopold Heritage Group member, said important work is never finished. He added the group needs volunteers for future projects.
After, weeding, putting spikes naming the indigenous plant species and tree planting Sunday, the group’s next big project is to create the Leopold Circle.
The semi-circle rock sculpture and classroom will be enclosed by the trees planted last year and Sunday to provide a more woodland area for learning or reflecting.
The rocks likely will feature a quote from Leopold, the Burlington native and conservationist, etched around the curves.LHG member George Gruenther plants trees at the Aldo Leopold Middle School outdoor classroom during a recent workday.
“It’s in honor of Leopold, and it (the Leopold Circle) says to users, ‘This is an important place and should be respected,’ ” said Brower, adding education is the top priority.
“The important thing is the opportunities children have to have repeated experiences in an outdoors landscape.”
Gruenther, who has taught at Burlington High School for 10 years and 42 years in the school district, couldn’t agree more about the importance of the environment in education. He said he uses his American studies classes to teach about the history of Leopold, among other opportunities.
“The kids need to go outside and be outside to appreciate it. It’s a great booster of one’s feelings too. It feels good,” Gruenther said.
Brower said the Leopold Circle project is expected to get under way this fall, with help from area donations, but work likely will continue next year.
LaVon Worley, another Leopold Heritage Group member, said another project is to build a shelter on the grounds to accommodate a classroom.
Both Worley and Brower said the group began building the outdoor classroom with the expectation it would take a few years to get all the pieces in place.
Worley hopes the site will be utilized by the school and the community.
“We’re hoping the community will get over here and use this, as well as the school district,” Worley said.
Brower said the group has had a tremendous amount of help from local organizations and businesses, as well as grants from state and federal agencies.
The most recent grant is from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with help from the local soil and water conservation district, to put in a rain garden to help with water retention and sustainability on the grounds.
To date, Worley said there are about 2,500 plants on the plot, many due to grants, and more than 50 trees spread out throughout the middle school grounds that came from both grants and local organizations and businesses.
Aldo Leopold Middle School outdoor classroom
In cooperation with the Burlington School District, the Leopold Heritage Group is spearheading installation of an outdoor classroom at Aldo Leopold Middle School. The plan calls for creating several rock outcrops, several low earthen berms, a 525-foot winding trail through several prairie plantings, a covered shelterhouse, a bird-feeding station and a circular stone seating area dubbed the Leopold Circle, which will feature selected quotes by the author of “A Sand County Almanac.”
Anyone wishing to make a contribution of money, materials or time to the project can contact LHG member Dave Riley at (319) 758-6828.
LHG a 'Friend of Education'
The Leopold Heritage Group of Burlington was named a 2011 Friend of Education by the Iowa State Education Association for the group's ongoing effort to establish an outdoor classroom at Aldo Leopold Middle School.
Students, educators, local businesses and members of the community worked under the leadership of the Leopold Heritage Group to design and construct a two-acre outdoor classroom at the front of Aldo Leopold Middle School. Science students participated in the project by planting prairie grasses, flowers, trees and shrubs. The naturalistic amphitheater, created from large rocks, provides a natural setting for students studying reading, science, music, art and other subjects.
The Leopold Heritage Group was founded in 2004 to promote the legacy of Aldo Leopold, an internationally known conservationist, writer and educator who was born in Burlington. The ISEA is a professional organization of more than 34,000 educators dedicated to supporting and protecting a quality public education for all Iowa students.
For more photos, visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/leopoldheritage