An estimated 67 Ohio schools currently hold the designation of a WILD School Site by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Springmill STEM recently became one of them.
According to ODNR’s website, a WILD School Site is “a school property used by students, teachers or the school community as a place to learn about and benefit wildlife and the environment.” In order to receive the certification, Springmill STEM was required to share how the school is utilizing nature as part of their curriculum as well as how they are being good stewards of nature itself.
Principal Regina Sackman said the certification is one of many new additions to infuse nature to further the mission of Springmill STEM. She credits the Ohio State University’s Extension Office, Amanda Criner of Richland County Parks Department and volunteer naturalists with providing education and tools to showcase how to maximize outdoor space for education.
Last year, efforts of staff, students and volunteers to remove glass, debris and trash from their outdoor space was a catalyst for the school to receive this certification. In addition, teachers became certified in Project WILD, another qualification of being a WILD School Site.
The K-4 student population has been excited to learn more about how nature affects their everyday life, their future and their immediate community.
“They took ownership of being part of nature education,” Sackman said.
Kindergarten students adopted the area being used as a bird sanctuary while second-grade students have actively enjoyed natural hikes. Earlier in the school year, third-grade students were vital in the $10,000 grant from Directions Credit Union to build an outdoor classroom, including designing the space for the entire school community as well as managing the budget, led by teachers Andrea Murphy and Amy Mathes. Future plans include re-establishing fruit trees on the school grounds that previously housed apple orchards.
Springmill STEM hopes to add a grade each year to be a full K-6 offering before students matriculate to the next level.
For more information about Springmill STEM, visit their webpage.