Tornado Creates New Outdoor Learning Space

Tornado Creates a New Outdoor Learning Space at Sand Creek Elementary
Posted on 10/27/2023

Several months ago, Sand Creek Elementary’s Principal Pam Pekarek and Occupational Therapist Michelle Rudolf wanted to use the school’s garden as an outdoor learning space. One thing needed was seating and the pair thought it would be nice to incorporate natural elements as seating options. 

After a tornado hit the area last June, Michelle remembered that idea and took action as stumps and branches piled up outside homes. While cutting up five trees in a friend's yard near the school, Michelle recruited others to load up the stumps and drive them to the school. They rolled the stumps into the garden and others dropped off more tree stumps over the summer as storm cleanup continued.

At the start of the school year, Sand Creek had 24 stumps for the outdoor learning area. Michelle requested a few more tree stumps on social media and a business responded, with Lee's Trees delivering five more to the school. 

The tree stumps are covered with felt cushions and plastic in case the stumps are wet or dirty. The space quickly became a hit with teachers and students. 

“Some teachers use the space for reading time and math lessons,” said Michelle. 

The stumps are also used in lessons to include counting the tree’s rings, measuring the trunk’s circumference, and beginning conversations around density. Since the stumps are mobile, the seating offers flexibility for grouping students. Sometimes just a change in environment creates a positive vibe. 

children“I like that we get to read outside and have a spot to sit down,” said first-grade student Emilina.

“I like all the nice nature,“ said first-grader Ken.

“I found a bunny hole. It’s a hiding place,” said first-grader Serena.

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