Shelly and Rosie the turtles take up residence at Welti Elementary


One of the two newest additions to the Welti Elementary School Outdoor Classroom / W.C. Mann

WELTI – Welti Elementary School recently expanded its outdoor classroom with the addition of a turtle habitat, and its staff with the addition of two official school turtles: Rosie and Shelly.  They have taken up residence in a garden enclosure hand-built by school and community volunteers on the school’s campus.

The duo are eastern box turtles, a popular type of pet turtle which, like its cousin the tortoise, prefers to spend most of its life on land.  They are omnivores that will eat fruits, vegetables and berries, along with worms, caterpillars and other creepy-crawlies.  With proper care, they can live more than 100 years, meaning that, one day, Rosie and Shelly could be teaching the great grandchildren of their current students.

The turtles are part of Welti’s growing Outdoor Classroom, a project sponsored by the Alabama Wildlife Federation, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, and (in Cullman County) the North Alabama Agriplex, to allow kids to move outside the regular classroom and experience hands-on learning opportunities in the fields of natural science and nature conservation.  Several schools in both the county and city systems participate.

Staffers from the Agriplex come once each month to the school, teaching classes in the outdoor classroom.

So, why “Rosie” and “Shelly?”

Principal Gina Webb explained, “We had a ‘Name the Turtle’ campaign, and each class nominated two names for the turtles.  And then we sent out a Google form, and the classes got to vote and select the two names.”

The names were selected from a list that also included Blueberry, Sky, Rocky, Mickie and Minnie, Shella, Snappy and Rosa.

Welti’s outdoor classroom includes: four raised garden beds, producing vegetables that are served in the school lunchroom; a sensory garden, that promotes the experience of nature through all the senses; pollinator and butterfly gardens; a songbird sanctuary; weather station; turtle habitat; and a berry patch.

Webb shared, “It would not have been possible without all the support and all the donations, and all of the parents that have worked so hard to keep it up.  The students have taken ownership of the outdoor classroom, and every class has adopted an area, and they are keeping that area maintained.  And so that actually gives them a lot of hands-on learning experience.  The fifth grade is feeding the turtles, pre-K is taking care of the sensory garden; every area has been adopted by our students, and is being taken care of by them.”

For more on Welti’s outdoor classroom, see

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