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One School at a Time: Wakarusa Elementary shines

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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WAKARUSA, Ind. (WNDU) - Martin’s Super Markets’ One School at a Time grant is back for the new school year. The first school to be awarded the $1,000 grant for the 2021-22 school year is Wakarusa Elementary, where nature’s classroom is calling.

The children enjoy spending time in the school’s courtyard.

“I like that you can come out here, and relax by reading a book or just sit out here talking,” said Chelsea Fawley, a third grader.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been outside. So yeah, it’s very refreshing,” said Derek Davidhizar, a third grader.

These students love library time outside.

“It just kind of gives them a lift,” said Jane Abel, Wakarusa Elementary Librarian. “After being inside you know and you bring them outside, it really helps brighten the day.”

“You just see a different side of them when they can get outside,” said Principal Kim Branham.

This is not a playground. It’s a courtyard complete with an amphitheater in the middle of the school.

“We’re right in the center of the building, some of our classrooms are along this side, our library is right there, our art room is back here, and then we have a direct door to our cafeteria,” explained Branham.

From lunch to learning or lounging, they only recently started using the courtyard to its full potential.

“Started about two to three years ago. We had the conversation of why wouldn’t we use this space, an outdoor learning opportunity for our students,” said Branham.

When Covid-19 hit, they already had an outdoor solution.

“It was more of a springboard if anything. A silver lining in the midst of all that to say learning can take place outside,” said Branham.

The PTO found funding to spruce up the landscaping, clean up the concrete and fix some drainage issues. Only one problem remains.

“We need more shade here,” said Derek. “The sun’s beating down on you, and especially if you have glasses your head feels like it’s going to catch on fire at any moment.”

“It’s kind of hard to see because the sun’s kind of shining down so much,” said Chelsea. “I think it would be good for some shade.”

“A little bit of shade would help. Particularly in the afternoon, it gets a little toasty,” said Abel. “So the shade would be nice and they would be able to see a little better.”

The grant money will help with fabric shading, called shade sails commonly used at restaurants and outdoor venues.

“So the money will go specifically to that so our students can do that and see their work a little bit better and not be in the direct sunlight and still have the natural light and the fresh air,” said Branham.

No matter what lies ahead this school year the kids have another great option for learning.

“I’ve learned that if we take good care of ourselves, get outside, get fresh air, sanitize, maintain a healthy lifestyle, we can be around more often,” said Branham. “We live in Indiana, we’re going to make it work.”

If you would like to nominate your school for a One School at a Time grant, click here for the entry page:

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