Step Forward Head Start students who attend the Carl B. Stokes Early Learning Center are excited to finally be using and enjoying their new outdoor nature area.
The project has been months in the making, thanks to a local group of Boy Scouts. The four young men from Troop 424 asked for material donations and volunteered their time to build the area, which features a gateway entrance, a path, several benches and signs for plant identification.
“I decided to take the gateway because I wanted to challenge myself a bit with construction, and I wanted to put my own creativity into the design,” Andy Matovic explained.
The idea for an outdoor classroom at Carl B. Stokes came from Dr. Thea Wilson, Step Forward’s Vice President of Children and Families. When she heard that the young men were considering ideas for their Eagle Scout Service Project, she offered them the idea. The intention of the nature area was to offer students a place where they could safely explore, enjoy nature and get fresh air while still receiving classroom instruction.
“Every child deserves the opportunity to explore the world,” Dr. Wilson said. “The great outdoors provides the perfect canvas for their imagination to soar.”
Staff at Carl B. Stokes is excited to start using the outdoor area.
“We are looking forward to another opportunity in which our young children can step into the world beyond books and walls,” Samantha Whatley, the Site Administrator at Carl B. Stokes, said. "Our students have an innate curiosity. They thrive in nature."
Chris and Andy Matovic, Jeremiah Guess and William Stanford spent several weekday evenings and weekends throughout the fall and winter trying to complete the project. It was finished by spring 2023.
“It was a really nice project that I enjoyed doing,” Chris said. “I hope the students are able to use this as much as they can. I hope they’re able to come out here whenever it’s nice outside.”
In December 2022, Chris submitted his part of the project to earn him the rank of Eagle. Andy was promoted to Eagle in April 2023. Jeremiah earned Eagle rank in May 2023.
“This area is meant to be an all-encompassing and welcoming area. It’s where they can just have fun, learn some things, and interact with nature,” Andy said.