Quitman's quest… School awaits word on grant for nature study

By Staff
NATURE TRAIL n Quitman Lower Elementary School's Denisea Marengo and Principal Elaine Herbison exchange ideas while walking along the school's new nature trail. Photo by Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
April 24, 2001
QUITMAN In a "Quest for Learning Excellence," the staff of the Quitman Lower Elementary School only had to look out their back window to find a natural setting for learning.
The K-2 school is located near Archusa Lake, but the woods have always blocked the view of the Pat Harrison Waterway District's lake. That is changing. Last year, the school district leased the land behind the QLE to build a football practice field and a girls' softball field.
As the land was being cleared, QLE principal Elaine Herbison asked that a small part of the woods be left for the school to have a nature trail.
It all fits
In an effort to improve test scores, the Quitman School District is working to improve its students' understanding of math, language skills, science and thinking and reasoning skills.
Herbison and first grade teacher Denisea Marengo started discussing the possibilities of a program that would utilize Archusa Lake and the nature trail while also teaching these core subject areas. Thus, the idea for the Quest for Learning Excellence was born.
Herbison and Marengo have written a program which gets the children out of the classroom  but not for recess. The students would be in an outdoor classroom where learning objectives include nature and the environment.
To get it started, Herbison and Marengo are in the process of approaching a local industry for a grant of about $30,000 to do the following things:
Next to it, there would be a covered shed, or an outdoors classroom;
Additional work would be done with the nature trail. It would include learning stations, and construction of a raised platform which would allow students to view Archusa Lake.
A "Quest Team," made up of first graders and second graders, would be formed. Teachers would submit a list of students to for team based on a positive attitude, good grades, good citizenship, and a willingness to work. The Quest team, which would be considered an extra activity, would work in the green house.
Marengo said they would study and grow plants from different parts of the country. They would learn what environment, type of soil and how much water would be needed for these plants to survive.
Quest students would keep a journal of what they have learned. They would also pick a book about the places where their plants naturally grow, and review it.
Occasionally, the Quest student would be called on to talk to their peers when classrooms are going through the green house and nature trail. The students will be called on to show the different plant, and to review the book about the region.
Herbison has the support of the school administration for this project, and is waiting to hear about the grant.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217; or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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