Beautification champions created paradise in school lot

A bare gravel yard was all students at Stettler Middle School had to look forward to after construction left

Stettler Middle School teachers Bob Poapst

Stettler Middle School teachers Bob Poapst

A bare gravel yard was all students at Stettler Middle School had to look forward to after construction left an area of the playground scraped raw.

There was no grass, no shade, no beauty to be found in the area, and that was something school teachers Bob Poapst and Sandy Foster couldn’t stand to look at every day.

The pair formed the School Greening Committee in 2011, a group made up of school board members, teachers, parent council members, students and interested community members. Together, the group came up with a three-phase plan.

The execution of the first phase of this plan earned Poapst and Foster the 2014 Beautification Champion award from the Heartland Beautification Committee.

According to presenter Rob Spencer, the vision was to create an outdoor, natural multi-purpose space for students and community members to “gather, socialize, play, relax and learn.”

Phase one of the project has been completed, and consists of benches, log seating, jumping stumps, berms with native trees and shrubs, and raised beds with native vegetation, surrounded by benches.

The largest part of the project comes next, and includes the creation of an outdoor classroom, earth berms with native trees and shrubs, and natural recreation spaces.

The last stage involves a courtyard mecca, complete with seating, garden beds, trees, a compost area and learning centres.

“Students and members of the public could engage in stimulating hands-on learning environments, where children could play in a natural setting, and where everyone could feel connected with nature. This connection to nature is vital in helping develop a healthier lifestyle and improves the likelihood of becoming environmental stewards,” Spencer said.

According to Spencer, the project is very important to the community – a fact proven by the many donations of funds and time on the part of the town, local contractors and businesses, students and parents. The area is used by the public who come to watch football on the field, use nearby playground equipment, and people who use the track for fitness.

“Bob and Sandy have spent ‘mega hours’ bringing this ambitious project to fruition,” Spencer said, quoting a student.

The benefits are already being seen, he noted.

“Students no longer just ‘stand around’ on breaks,” he said. “Many now can be seen jumping along the stumps and playing wall ball. The natural setting has proved to invigorate the students.”

For their leadership and willingness to donate their time and passion to the project, Poapst and Foster are the 2014 Beautification Champions.

See another photo in the week’s paper.