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KHCPL First Library in Indiana to Create a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom

Community has its first Outdoor Classroom thanks to

memorial gifts, grants, donations, and volunteers

 

 

The Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom’s grand opening was on May 23, 2017, at KHCPL Russiaville, 315 Mesa Drive.

It’s made possible because of our generous donors:

 

Gene and Wilma Parks Endowment

In memory of Roberta Lineback

Howard County Commissioners

Duke Energy

Friends of the Kokomo-Howard County Library

Integrity EDM

Howard County Master Gardeners

Lowe’s Heroes

Kohl’s Cares

GM Cares

In 2016, after receiving a gift of nearly $13,000 from the Gene and Wilma Parks Endowment, with a stipulation the money be used for a project at KHCPL Russiaville, the library turned to crowd sourcing to get not only additional funding, but also support for the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

What's an Outdoor Classroom?

So what is an outdoor classroom? Just what its name suggests: an outdoor place where children can learn. Outdoor is the key word.

Child development research shows that children need and benefit from more time outdoors.

“The retention rate for learning by doing is 75 percent compared with just 5 percent for lecture-based learning,” according to a Bethel Learning Institute study. “When students are learning outdoors, they are using all of their senses and their abilities to absorb and take in information. They are also learning an appreciation for nature and developing active stewardship for the natural areas in their communities.”

“We want every child to succeed in school and at life,” said Faith Brautigam, Director of KHCPL. “In children, play creates the foundation for future learning. Our Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom encourages exploration and imaginative play in a natural environment that helps to develop physical abilities and cognitive skills. As a destination for families, school groups, early childhood students, and the conservation-minded, it’s an added attraction for Russiaville and Howard County.”

THE HOWARD COUNTY MASTER GARDENER ASSOCIATION PROVIDED A $500 DONATION AND LABOR TO GET THE PROJECT STARTED.

More and more parents are realizing that kids today don’t play enough, get enough exercise, or spend time outdoors.

“Play isn’t a waste of time,” said Susan Bednarz, a KHCPL employee with more than 16 years of experience in early childhood education who helped get the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom up and running.

Just a few of the various benefits of play, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, include the following:

• cognitive skills – like math and problem-solving in a pretend grocery store

• physical abilities – like balancing blocks and running on the playground

• new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs

• social skills – like playing together in a pretend car wash

• literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant

Think about all the skills you learned with outdoor play: problem-solving when building a fort, understanding the importance of preserving natural habitats when studying shells at the beach, and social skills when interacting with other kids in the neighborhood.

“Kids have to have calendars these days to keep track of all they’re involved in — all in an effort to learn more, do more,” said Lisa Fipps, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement at KHCPL. “We’ve forgotten how much they learn and grow through play. Plus play helps reduce stress and anxiety.”

“We were grateful for the Gene and Wilma Parks Endowment donation, and the patrons’ vision for the gift ties in with our long-term strategy of making each of our locations a destination spot and providing more outdoor programming,” Brautigam said.

Duke Energy Foundation Grant

 

THE DUKE ENERGY FOUNDATION WAS A BIG SUPPORTER OF THE NATURE EXPLORE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM.

 

As soon as the Howard County Master Gardener Association heard about the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom, the organization made a $500 donate and its members volunteered labor.

And then KHCPL received a nearly $10,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

“Duke Energy is committed to sustainability in all its operations,” said Kevin Johnston, government and community relations manager for Howard County. “Young children who learn important lessons about environmental responsibility and stewardship are more likely to carry those positive messages into adulthood to help maintain and improve the quality of life for the entire community.”

“Because of KHCPL Russiaville’s location being so close to Clinton, Tipton, and Carroll counties, we foresee it drawing in and benefitting not only those from Kokomo and Howard County, but also those communities,” Brautigam said. “With its focus on outdoor education, we believe it will offer new opportunities to partner with others and will be enjoyed by groups from schools and early childhood centers as well as families. It will also allow us to host more library events on-site at KHCPL Russiaville rather than using other Russiaville locations, as we’ve done in the past.”

“We know that the Duke Energy Foundation receives an overwhelming number of funding requests each year and are thrilled that they recognized this project’s potential.”

The momentum kept building.

KHCPL received another major gift for the project: a $15,000 anonymous gift in memory of Roberta Lineback.

 

In Memory of a Teaching Legend

ROBERTA LINEBACK

Roberta passed away on Nov. 17, 2016, after an extended illness. She was a long-time resident of Russiaville. She graduated from Northwestern High School in 1949 and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1970 and 1975 from Indiana University Kokomo. She began teaching kindergarten privately in 1962 and continued until kindergarten classes were added at Western School Corp. She taught at Western Primary School from 1971 to 2000. Roberta was also a member of Bible Baptist Church for over 60 years.

 “I was contacted by a person who wanted Roberta’s legacy to live on, and what a legacy it was, teaching kindergarten for 38 years,” said Fipps. “The donor wanted to help KHCPL Russiaville, but wasn’t quite sure how. The more I listened to the donor talk about Roberta, the more I knew just what to suggest. I told the donor about the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom at KHCPL Russiaville. The donor loved the idea.”

Roberta touched the lives of people from the library long before the donation. She was KHCPL Board of Trustees President Mary Baker’s kindergarten teacher. “I have fond memories of her,” Baker said. “She was always smiling! Mrs. Lineback was kind, patient, and expected the most from her students.”

“My son had her as a teacher,” Kim Johnson, a clerk in KHCPL’s Outreach Department said. “We loved her. She was a very caring and loving person.”

 

SANDY ALSPAUGH WITH THE STONE IN HER SISTER'S MEMORY DURING THE GRAND OPENING. 

Karen Foster, a first-grade teacher at Western Primary School, has Roberta to thank for her 22-year teaching career. “She had both of my girls for kindergarten. She let me volunteer in her room every Friday. I did crafts and helped with lessons. I loved how she talked to the children. She didn’t talk down to them. She met them at their level. They knew what she expected of them. They behaved. They learned. I hadn’t gone back to school yet, but before volunteering I thought I’d be a nurse. After watching her with the children, I decided to be a teacher. She was amazing.”

One of Karen’s daughters, Tricia Harlow, also went on to be a teacher at Western. “I remember Mrs. Lineback teaching with a little doll name Astro. We had the best toys. She had a rice table in her room that was amazing. I either played with that or the stilts that she had made out of large cans and ropes. I always liked the assignment we had each week: to go through magazines and find words that started with the same letter of the week. That was always my favorite because I loved to cut and paste. She made learning fun. Sadly, she retired before I got to teach with her. The funny thing is when I smell white rice, I always think of kindergarten. That smell takes me back to that memory every time.”

“What I love about this donation is that the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom is an early childhood educational installation,” said Brautigam. “Just as she made school and learning fun, this whole project is about allowing young kids to learn in exciting ways. Outdoor classroom learning isn’t about standardized tests and the all the anxiety associated with it. It’s about curiosity, discovering things for yourself, and making learning fun. It sounds as if that’s exactly what kind of teacher Roberta was. There could be no better match in making this possible than with money that is linked to someone whose whole life was dedicated to teaching and helping children learn.”

Howard County Commissioners Give

COMMISSIONER PAUL WYMAN PRESENTED THE $10,000 DONATION DURING THE GRAND-OPENING CELEBRATION.

 

During the grand opening celebration for the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom at KHCPL Russiaville, the Howard County Commissioners presented the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library with a $10,000 check.

 “We are excited about this opportunity for our community,” said Paul Wyman, Howard County commissioner. “These projects add to our quality of life and educational opportunities for our children. This type of grant shows how government working in conjunction with other groups and organizations can make great things happen.”

“We are impressed with how the library continually works to be a leader in our community with these types of innovative programs,” said Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore. “The library is an incredible resource, and this classroom will strengthen their positive impact on our children.” 

“With this project, once again we show how strong partnerships continue to keep Howard County at the forefront,” said Brad Bray, Howard County commissioner. “Howard County continues to be a great place to live and raise your family.”   

 For more information about Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, click here.

 

 

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