Donations and fundraisers help to construct outdoor learning space at Fort Gratiot elementary school

Each year, the students of Keewahdin Elementary School participate in the Husky Hustle. Students run laps around the soccer field, raising donations from parents and sponsors with each lap.

It’s a significant fundraiser. The Husky Hustle can raise $20,000 to $30,000 in any given year, helping to fund everything from teachers’ classroom projects to the installation of a rock climbing wall in the elementary gym.

In 2018, the Keewahdin Parent Teacher Association came up with a new project: To use some of the money raised from Husky Hustle events to help fund the construction of an outdoor learning center on the grounds of Keewahdin Elementary.

Now, thanks to the PTA forging a partnership with the local Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Fort Gratiot, construction is underway on the Keewahdin outdoor learning space. It’s expected that the project will be completed by Friday, Oct. 23.

“Our parents are outstanding. It means the world to us because whenever we decide to head down a new pathway for our students, the teachers and parents are there to support us every step along the way,” says Chuck Lesser, principal of Keewahdin Elementary.

“Our parents’ involvement and drive keeps us going.”

The outdoor learning space is a 20 ft. by 40 ft. covered pavilion that will be outfitted with water and electricity. It will be used for outdoor classroom space, science experiments, play performances, readers theater, and more.

The Keewahdin PTA contributed $7,500 to the construction of the learning space with Lowe’s covering the rest of the $10,000 project through their Heroe’s Project program. Lowe’s also provided the basic 20 ft. by 20 ft. frame and is providing complimentary labor to build the project.

Although an outdoor learning space dovetails with current COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings — the school is operating under a hybrid model where half the school alternates on-site learning days with the second half — the timing of the construction of the outdoor learning center is as much a useful coincidence as anything.

“As soon as the area is built, it will help,” Lesser says. “We can go outside on nice days and get some fresh air.”

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