Pupils and teachers pool efforts to turn courtyard into classroom


September 25, 2001|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE CREATION OF a "Living Environment," or outdoor classroom, at Sykesville Middle School is nearly complete.

The project consists of one large and one small pond, a waterfall and a stream. The habitat includes native plants and shrubbery, and many beautiful rock formations.

The larger pond has been stocked with goldfish, but according to Gina Felter, a science teacher at the school and director of the project, native fish will be added soon.

The area is in a courtyard between the main building and the new media center. Its purpose is to give pupils a setting where they can study environmental science and related topics. It also will be a place for other classes, such as writing and art.

The Living Lab Committee, Felter's group of about 25 pupils, is credited with completing much of the work on the project. Most of the work was done after school, and many parents also contributed, according to Felter.

Felter consulted with Jeff Waters, an authority on backyard ponds from a local nursery, while planning the project. She and the committee began digging in September last year. In November, they filled the large pond. The stream and small pond were completed in the spring, as were the planting and mulching, she said.

At the inception of the project, Donald Pyles, then the school's principal, urged Ralph Billings, assistant principal and a former art teacher, to include artwork in the garden.

Long-term substitute art teacher Nathan Birdsal planned and developed the artwork with pupils' help.

Birdsal engaged the assistance of Linda DePalma, a Baltimore artist from the Artists in Residence Program, who showed pupils slides of artwork ideas.

"The kids determined the direction," said Billings. "The whole school voted on the designs and the top four designs were chosen."

The artwork consists of large panels made from painted marine plywood, which have cutout designs depicting the four traditional elements of nature - earth, wind, fire and water.

Again, many parents became involved, and helped hang the heavy artworks on the walls surrounding the courtyard.

The final stage of the project will be completing a tiered wooden platform, where classes can assemble and view the area.

"The kids have done a super job," said Billings, reflecting on the work that went into the project over the past school year.

Felter echoed his sentiments, and pointed out that work also took place during the summer. She and Jeanne McDearmon - a teacher who helped regularly on the project - with eighth-graders Jessica Makowski, Amanda Carr, Kathy Casswell and Allessa Rash, spent one day a week maintaining the area and caring for the new plants.

A dedication ceremony is planned for November, when the area will officially open for school use.

Chesapeake Bay field trip

Piney Run Park, in conjunction with the Carroll County Outdoor School and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is offering a field trip to Smith Island Environmental Center from Oct. 26 to 28.

The group will leave from the park on Martz Road in Sykesville.

Any Carroll County pupil in grades six through eight is eligible to register. Twenty participants, 10 boys and 10 girls, will be chosen by lottery for the trip.

Registration forms must be completed and returned to the park manager, Loren Lustig, by Oct 3.

The cost is $120 per participant. Registration forms are available at the park. Information: 410-795-3274.

Liberty High bingo

Liberty High School's Class of 2002 will sponsor Basket Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Oct 13 at the high school.

The event will include Longaberger baskets, pottery and accessories. Paper games will be played and door prizes awarded.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

The school is at 5855 Bartholow Road, Eldersburg.

Information: 410-549-3069 or 410-549-1122.

Debra Taylor Young's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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