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Town seeks outdoor classroom funding

Farragut has applied for a federal grant for an outdoor classroom and water quality demonstration site at the “pocket park” at the corner of Campbell Station Road and the western entrance to Farragut High School.

Jason Scott, a Farragut engineering technician, said the site would be used as an outdoor classroom for Farragut school students, as well as a demonstration site for water quality measures for anyone and everyone — from private homeowners to developers to community activists.

“The education component would be the outdoor classroom space,” Scott said.

That would include a small “amphitheatre” of about 26 seats, plus handicap accessibility, as well as a restroom and “technology garden.”

“It has electricity and bathrooms, and the idea with that is to be able to deliver classroom-type amenities to the outdoors, so teachers don’t have to choose between outdoor presentations versus classroom presentations,” Scott said.

For example, the space could include technology for PowerPoint presentations in an outdoor setting.

“Then they could tie that presentation into whatever they’re looking at on the site,” Scott said.

Scott said the most unique feature of the outdoor classroom is that it would be always changing — unlike a park, which is conceptually set before it is even constructed; the outdoor classroom would change as Farragut students and residents used it.

“The idea of the outdoor classroom is to provide more of an interactive space for the community to use, so it’s always changing.

“So, say, the community garden space or a planter ... one year, you might have a class take it over to study comparative grass studies and manage it through the year, and watch how it reacts ... or they might do something with different soils or something like that,” Scott said.

“The scope of the project isn’t necessarily an idea that ‘you plant it, you build it and you’re done,’” he added.

In addition to the classroom space, the site could feature a cistern, rain garden, aquatic buffer demonstration area and a community garden, as well as sidewalk connectors and walking trails.

“This demonstration site will allow us to show off some [water quality] technologies that people could use if they wanted to retrofit their own property or if they were doing new development,” Scott said.

The federal grant would cover 60 percent of the project costs. The entire project could cost as much as $224,000, Scott has estimated.

That number includes anticipated “in-kind” help from local environmental, water quality and educational agencies, including First Utility District, Ijams Nature Center, The Fort Loudon Lake Association, The Water Quality Forum and Farragut High School.

All of those agencies have thrown their support behind the outdoor classroom space, which Scott said is a rather unique concept.

“The technology garden differentiates this from other outdoor classroom spaces in that it makes it makes it significantly more usable,” Scott said.

Scott said the project largely is contingent on Farragut receiving the federal grant; that decision should be known by March 2011.

Scott worked on the project concept, and the grant proposal, with two Farragut High School students and interns, Alyssa Watson and Amy Scheuer.


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