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Outdoor Learning Center

Eisenhower Outdoor Learning Center

By Gail Granneman

In March of 2012, the District signed an agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for the Eisenhower Outdoor Learning Center. Doug Helmers, an Iowa Private Lands Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the liaison.

In May of 2012, Helmers provided native Iowa flower seeds, which second and third grade students scattered and stomped, to begin a pollinator garden. Throughout the summer of 2012, Eileen Day and Gail Granneman spearheaded efforts to line up Eisenhower staff and parent volunteers to weed the south side of the garden. Once they started removing the weeds, they were amazed by the variety of flowers that were determined to grow under and around the obnoxious weeds.

Students will be able to use the pollinator garden for science units, descriptive writing, observing butterflies and other insects, and witnessing the seasonal changes of wildflowers.

Work was also done to maintain the pond area of the Eisenhower Outdoor Learning Area. The algae, that began growing in the pond, was sprayed. Gail Granneman and Eileen Day used several methods to control the cattails that engulfed the pond. Sweeping the tops of the cattails with weed killer was the most successful. The cattails turn yellow, dry up and die. We anticipate using this method for the next couple of years, in order to keep the majority of the pond clear.

Students will be able to use the pond for science units, descriptive writing, observing tadpoles developing into frogs, dragonflies and other pond life. Canada Geese, Blue Winged Teals, Common Sandpipers, Killdeers and a fawn have been seen visiting the pond.

In July of 2012, a piece of Ottumwa School history was moved to the Eisenhower Outdoor Learning Center. In 1899, the Ottumwa Community School system built Washington School. It was the first building built specifically to house Ottumwa high school students only. It served grades 8-12 until 1923, when our current high school was built. Then it served grades 7-9 until 1982. It was destroyed by fire in 1990. Grooms Construction Company was hired to remove the remaining structure. John Grooms made a decision to save the blocks that created an arch around the front entrance. Sam Rodgers, Mrs. Rodgers’ father-in-law, was on the original Outdoor Learning Committee in 1996. He was aware of the blocks and was determined to have them brought to Eisenhower. When a new committee was formed in 1211, Sam made them aware of the blocks. John was contacted and he graciously donated them to Eisenhower School. They are now in four seating areas around our Outdoor Learning Center.

Classrooms will be using the Outdoor Learning Center in a variety of ways; science units, descriptive writing, silent/paired reading, observation, etc. We hope Ottumwa community members will come over to enjoy this unique area to play, walk, picnic, relax, observe, etc