Deer Creek Elementary’s Grove Valley Outdoor Classroom

image of people cutting ribbon
Among those participating in the ribbon cutting at the outdoor classroom were, from left, J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Janet Barresi, state Superintendent of Public Instruction; and, far right, Debbie Straughn, school principal and Oklahoma County Conservation District board member.

Deer Creek’s Grove Valley Elementary School, in partnership with Tinker Air Force Base, held a dedication ceremony for an outdoor classroom that includes federally protected wetlands. The ceremony was held on April 22, 2011, at the site of the outdoor classroom adjacent to the school in Edmond and helped mark Earth Day Celebration activities. Students from the school participated in the event with the planting of native aquatic plants.

Construction began in January and is nearing completion. The air force base involvement is the result of a wetland mitigation effort. The newly-created wetland will replace a small wetland at the base whose removal was necessitated because of Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard concerns.

image of students playing in soil
Third, fourth and fifth graders planted aquatic plants in the soil at the outdoor classroom dedication.

Grove Valley Elementary is pleased to be the off-base partner and location for the wetland, according to Debbie Straughn, school principal and a board member of the Oklahoma County Conservation District. Straughn testified before Congress about the project last spring and has nominated it for the Pride in America Schools Award, which is presented by the U.S. Department of Interior.

According to Tinker Air Force Base officials, “The celebration involving multiple government and public agencies as well as local schools and non-governmental agencies demonstrates how partnering activities can benefit both the military and the communities in which they reside.  In times of economic crunch, these types of initiatives are more important than ever.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi participated in the dedication as well as Jim Denny, chairman of the Land Legacy board of directors; Mike Thralls, Oklahoma Conservation Commission executive director; Ron Hilliard, NRCS  state conservationist; and J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Water Resources Board executive director. Representatives from Tinker Air Force Base, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture also participated. In addition to Straughn representing Oklahoma County Conservation district, Richard Parker, district chairman; Don Bartolina, district manager; and Rod Shaw, NRCS district conservationist; also participated. Third, fourth and fifth grade students from the school carried out the planting of the aquatic plants.