Project will create outdoor learning space in Wellsville
WELLSVILLE — The fresh fruit or vegetable snack that Garfield Elementary School students receive is perhaps one of the favorite parts of their day; however, principal Lisa Ferguson explained that few if any of her students know how they come about.
That is about to change, as Ferguson prepares to embark on her longtime vision to convert a forgotten property across the street into a lovely outdoor learning center, where students can spread their wings both figuratively and academically.
“I’ve been working on this project for more than three years,” she said of the property, which used to be owned by Anne Sarge and includes a house and garage. A community member stepped forward and paid the back taxes on the property with the understanding that Sarge, who had moved down south, would transfer the parcel to the Columbiana CountyLand Bank before razing the structures and transferring it to the school district.
A $1,000 donation from the Orange and Black Boosters, who challenged other community members and businesses to step forward for the project, is being added to the other donations she has collected. This includes $5,000 from the land bank and $1,000 from Heritage Thermal Services. She also had reached out to Ellen DeGeneres, Lowe’s and most recently again to HTS for another $3,000.
Ferguson and district maintenance director Joe Traina estimate that a minimum of $20,000 will be needed to complete the project.
Students at the county Career and Technical Center and a Wellsville High School art teacher designed the layout, which includes a pavilion with picnic tables, and four raised bed gardens — one for each of grades K through 3 — in the rear of the property. Each grade level will choose what they want to plant with guidance from members of the Wellsville High School Science Club.
“The picnic tables will be painted by Garfield Elementary School,” Ferguson explained, adding that she hopes to have the project completed by November.
District maintenance employees are spearheading the work, which she hopes will include community members alongside them.
“Garfield Elementary School is where it all starts for this community here. This will provide our kids opportunities that they may not have access to in everyday life. I am hopeful that S.T.E.M. teachers and families will utilize this outdoor learning center,” she continued. “Given my experience with this community and its sense of pride over the last 42 years, I am confident that they will embrace this project. They never fail to step up and support the kids.”
For information on how to support the Garfield Elementary School’s outdoor learning center, checks can be mailed to Wellsville Local Schools; c/o Nancy Francis, treasurer; 929 Center St., Wellsville, OH 43968. Be sure to write Garfield Outdoor Learning Center (2720) on the Memo Line.