Grammar school looks forward to nature center

October 16, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

An open-eyed walk in the woods has inspired many an author, including those in Charles Pearce's fifth-grade classroom at Manchester Elementary School.

The modest nature center that the town is building near the school might seem at first to be something teachers will use for science. But that is just one benefit, Mr. Pearce said.

"I see it as one more way to encourage the kids to read and write," he said.

When his students walk the trail they made from their school, through the woods and into town-owned Pine Valley Park, they )) become inspired by the pine cones, wildflowers and insects they find.

"Every time they turn around, there's something to point at or talk about. They come back with so many things to write about, they're never at a loss."

The nature walks even provide a basis for fiction, he said. The children imbue their stories with true-to-nature facts and color.

The 758 students at Manchester Elementary will join town and school officials at 2 p.m. tomorrow to break ground for the nature center. It will be in a field at Pine Valley Park, about a seven-minute walk from the school.

Money for the center comes through a $20,000 grant from the state's Project Open Space. Town Councilwoman Charlotte Collett spearheaded the project as a way to help the school where she taught second grade for many years before retiring, and to serve the community.

Town Manager Terry Short said town residents could use the center for family reunions, picnics, scout activities and other gatherings.

The initial building will be spare, and erected by Nov. 22 if all goes as planned. The 36-foot-wide octagonal building will have a wood frame and concrete floor, one glass wall and a few skylights.

It won't have plumbing, insulation, heat or electricity immediately, but soon.

"We're building the structure so we can add a central, round fireplace," Mr. Short said. "Eventually, we will insulate it, and we may add restrooms."

Mr. Short and Mr. Pearce credited Mrs. Collett with bringing the nature center to fruition.

"She had this dream to make it available to us," Mr. Pearce said.

The center will be the only one of its kind available to an elementary school. Piney Ridge Elementary School and Mechanicsville Elementary have spaces set aside for nature centers, but have not built one.

"Whenever we go to the field and the woods, the kids find things on the ground they're curious about," Mr. Pearce said. "One time we brought back a live mouse, after its family had scattered. We were worried about its survival. The kids were able to identify it through a field guide."

The nature center will be a wonderful repository and laboratory for all the bugs and burrs the children find, he said.

"It will be an ideal place to put these things on display. We'll have bulletin boards," he said.

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