​Grant Approved for Outdoor Classroom

​Grant Approved for Outdoor Classroom

Friday, September 20, 2019
York High School students will soon have an addition to their science curriculum, thanks to grant funding from the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District. A grant request for an outdoor classroom has been approved by the board of directors, providing $1,000 for the project through the Upper Big Blue NRD’s Educational Capital Projects Fund (ECAP).

Established in 2018, ECAP exists to support natural resources related educational capital projects that provide experiential learning environments and opportunities for district citizens. Examples of the kind of projects that ECAP will fund include educational gardens and greenhouses, beekeeping/honey production equipment, interactive environmental exhibits, and learning displays. The Upper Big Blue NRD has also provided ECAP funds recently to Shelby-Rising City schools for a greenhouse and environmental lab.

The project at York High School will include transforming a small retention pond into a biology lab where students will study wildlife and collect water samples for analysis. The funds will be used to line the pond with rock, add a concrete pad and benches, and construct an all-abilities accessible path. Currently the pond is more of a marsh, filled with cattails. The plan is to dig out the current vegetation and plant native prairie grasses around the pond to show students what Nebraska looked like prior to the settlement of this area. A butterfly garden will also be installed so that students can study the vital role of pollinators up close.

York High School biology and physics teacher Brian Maronde crafted the grant request on behalf of his students. He has big dreams for the outdoor classroom. “Long term, I would look to make the pond deeper to have some minnows and a variety of aquatic life,” he said. He’s excited about the opportunity to offer students the chance “to study and appreciate the natural world” in a meaningful and memorable hands-on setting.

Maronde and studentMaronde estimates the total cost for the project will be $1,500. Funds from the NRD will be added to those from York High School and the York Public Schools Foundation to complete the project. Maronde began improvement on the outdoor classroom space this fall and expects it to be ready to use for the fall 2020 semester. York High School has a student population of 440 and serves grades 9-12.  Maronde plans to use the outdoor classroom most heavily with the 70+ biology students he teaches each year but expects that other science faculty at the high school will also utilize the resource for their classes.

“This outdoor classroom will offer a great opportunity to students to learn more about stewardship and environmental science,” said David Eigenberg, general manager of the Upper Big Blue NRD. “We are pleased to partner with York High School in providing this educational upgrade and we hope that it will be a valuable resource for our community.”

Those that are interested in applying for ECAP funds can find more information and an application at www.upperbigblue.org/education.