Celebrating Successes During EKHW; Outdoor Classroom in Alton,IL.
Introducing Jen Herring, a 5th grade Special Education teacher in the Alton School District
How did you hear about the AFHK grant?
I am a teacher/parent group president and heard about the program as a parent and continued with the program as a teacher/parent as the years went by.
Tell us about your grant project.
Our grant plan and project has been to finish our outdoor classroom. This program is apart of Madison County Green schools and we receive funding from them every year. They’ve also provided us with a crisis food pantry, water bottles, etc. Then we were blessed with additional funding from AFHK to finish our outdoor classroom. It is outside but fully covered, with picnic tables, electric ran through it so that things can be plugged in, an outdoor projector, and a total of 60 students can fit into this classroom. The classroom location is right next to raised garden beds with butterflies, so kids are able to experience this as well while being in the classroom.
Can you tell us how you chose to celebrate EKHW this year?
We use Every Kids Healthy Week as a countdown to the final days of school. We celebrate every single day for thirty days until school is over. Some of the events that we have had and/or will have include an Earth Day Scavenger Hunt, A day dedicated to planting something, A drink water day, a carpooling day, and a park walk day.
What have been your biggest challenges during EKHW or during your grant process?
Our main challenge has been securing additional funding. We are thankful for the funds we received thru AFHK and have been able to spread those funds out by using free resources. In our cafeteria, there are not too many healthy options available. Our desire would be to provide cost-effective healthy options for the children.
What have been your biggest successes?
Our outdoor classroom is now available, and the teachers and students are both equally excited about science and learning outside. The students have even been spreading information to their parents about the things that they have learned. We are building a sense of community due to AFHK. We are excited to offer the children a full hands-on experience in the outdoor classroom.
What do you think the children enjoyed the most about EKHW?
They see the outdoor classroom as something fun that they can look forward to. They are overjoyed about being able to learn new things about being healthy and are excited to teach their families and friends about the things that they learn. The students then become the teachers and they encourage healthy choices over choices that are not as healthy (ie: walking instead of playing video games).
Any thing else that you would like to add?
Thanks, AFHK! We truly appreciate everything that your program is about. Alton is a big community but also a small one at the same time. The ripple effect does show here. We’ve mentioned AFHK in the local media and news outlets and we hope that spreading the word will allow the rest of our communities to take heed and become healthier.