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Schallau Creates Outdoor Classroom for Kensington Elementary

Kensington Elementary principal Dr. Rachel Clarke, left, and fifth-grade teacher Dr. Glenn Baron, jumped at the chance to have Scott Schallau create an outdoor classroom for their school as his Eagle Scout project. LAUREN BAILEY

(Article republished with permission from the Charlotte Observer)
When Scott Schallau, a senior at Cuthbertson High in Waxhaw, started thinking about his Eagle Scout project last May, he wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact. Six months later, the outdoor classroom Schallau built at Kensington Elementary promises to provide a rare educational opportunity for years to come.

Schallau, 17, had assisted Kensington Elementary three years ago by building some benches for the first outdoor classroom in the woods behind the school. Since then, Dr. Glenn Baron, a fifth-grade teacher at Kensington, has wanted to expand the project and construct a second outdoor classroom with a view of Twelve Mile Creek.

"Scott enabled that to happen," Baron said. "Kids don't have a contact with the earth anymore and that is going to be really important because the earth is in danger. So when we want to try to create citizens that are going to make a difference in the world, I love the chance to make sure this is included in their vision of what the world needs to be."

Schallau said he sent letters to various places, such as Waxhaw United Methodist Church where his Boy Scout troop 53 meets, asking about projects they were hoping to get done.

"I was looking for a substantial project where the community would get a lot of use from it," Schallau said. "The church wanted some things that were out of my ability but I didn't want to do a slack job so I picked something that I could still do that would be impacting on the community.

"It just turned up in an email one day from (Kensington Principal Dr. Rachel Clarke). She invited me to come meet Dr. Baron and we mapped out the spot and we planned it, and from May to now I got it done."

The wooded land behind the school, which runs along Twelve Mile Creek, belongs to Union County, but Kensington has permission to use it.

With some help from fellow Boy Scouts, a few school friends and his parents, Scott finished the quarter-mile trail, outdoor classroom complete with benches and a weather-proof white board and a fence to block children from getting too close to the creek.

"The hardest part was getting everything level," Schallau said.

Eagle Scout project photo 2 - Lauren BaileyThey cut down as few trees as possible when creating the trail and lined the edges with fallen branches and logs to create distinct boarders. Originally, Schallau planned to build a picket fence on the back side of the classroom, but discovered the view of the creek would be blocked. Baron really wanted the kids to be able to observe the process of erosion and changing water levels, so Schallau planted posts in the ground and ran rope between them for a fence that allow a good view.

Allen Industries donated the white board. A water-proof mailbox next to the board holds dry-erase markers and erasers.

The project took 273 hours. Schallau hopes to earn his Eagle Scout award this month or in December when he meets with the board and presents his project.

"I've been in Boy Scouts since kindergarten and it's been a really good impact," Schallau said. "You learn lots of life skills in Boy Scouts and it's the discipline that really affects you in life. It's helpful, all around."

Baron said they are already seeing the impact of Schallau's project on the kids. While taking his fifth-graders to the new classroom for a science lesson, Baron said he overheard one child say, "This is just like being in a national park."

Apart from Scouts, Schallau also plays lacrosse at Cuthbertson and is a dedicated student. His favorite class is med science, which covers topics he is interested in pursuing in college. He said he is leaning toward attending UNC-Wilmington to become a nurse practitioner or a marine biologist.

Lauren Bailey is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lauren? Email her at lbailey.charlotteobserver@gmail.com.

Written by: Lauren Bailey, freelance writer.
Posted: Nov 17, 2011 by Don Mace

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