2011 SCHOOL PROGRAM Grove Valley Elementary

2011 SCHOOL PROGRAM Grove Valley Elementary
Grove Valley Elementary formed a volunteer partnership with Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma County Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Oklahoma Water Resource Board, Caliber Development Company, Land Legacy and the Oklahoma Forestry Service. The major obstacle for the school was finding funds for building an outdoor classroom and wetlands. The Oklahoma County Conservation connected Grove Valley Elementary School with Tinker Air Force Base. The air force base needed to relocate their wetlands due to bird aircraft strike hazard concerns. All of the agencies volunteered their time in planning, visiting the site, securing drawings of the project, and finally in the actual building and planting of the outdoor classroom and wetlands.

The construction of the wetlands began in January 2011, and volunteers from Tinker Air Force Base helped with the initial wetlands construction. The extensive wetlands would cover almost three acres on the school property. School children watched the project from their classroom windows. They couldn’t wait for the heavy equipment to move away so they could volunteer their time in the wetlands!

Tinker Air Force Base Biologists and the school planned a major volunteer planting day called, "Marsh Madness." This event was held on Earth Day 2011, and was a celebration for the volunteers to see the design of the wetlands finished and an opportunity for children and partners to plant vegetation side by side. Over 450 children and 200 partners worked together to plant the native plants. Oklahoma has been experiencing a drought, so children and partners continue to volunteer their time in watering in the outdoor classroom. Over 2,500 volunteer hours have been recorded.

A volunteer from the Oklahoma Forestry Department helped save a large tree at the site of the wetlands. He recently visited Grove Valley Elementary to tell the children about the tree and how they too could volunteer their time by taking care of the fragile tree.

Volunteer efforts continue to make this project a success. Additional native water plants will be planted, and students and partners will work together in volunteering their time to add these plants as the wetland continues to fill up with water. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also going to stock the wetlands with fish, and volunteers will teach children how to fish.

This is one volunteer partnership that is truly unique – the joining of a military base and an elementary school to build outdoor classroom and wetlands!