Harmony buzzing over Outdoor Classroom certification

Rachel Dawsey of the North Alabama Agriplex addresses the intimate crowd on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the certification ceremony for Harmony School’s Outdoor Classroom. (Christie Mann Thomas)

LOGAN, Ala. – Harmony School is soaking in the much-deserved recognition of receiving certification from the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) as an official Outdoor Classroom School – only the second in the Cullman County Schools system, and the first in eight years. This is no small feat for the tiny-but-mighty school and has fostered a renewed sense of curiosity and interest in science for its students – not to mention, a bit of a break from the day-to-day routine of indoor classes.  

Harmony School Librarian Lea Scott got the ball rolling on the classroom years ago, and with teacher Rachel Campbell and other faculty acting as a driving force to maintain it, the project was unstoppable. Scott was very outspoken about the benefits of the Outdoor Classroom for Harmony’s students at large.  

“They absolutely love it when they get to go out there for lessons!” she exclaimed. 

Scott further explained the importance of offering this experience to Harmony students, noting the hands-on approach to scientific study is one that many students don’t get in their day-to-day lives. 

“Our Outdoor Classroom has been fantastic for our students,” said Scott. “Many of our students don’t have the opportunity to work in a garden or interact with wildlife (at home).”  

The Outdoor Classroom was a communitywide endeavor, with support from the AWF, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Cullman County Master Gardeners, North Alabama Agriplex and several community partners that provided private grants, donations and volunteers. Perhaps one of the most impactful partners of the Outdoor Classroom would be the North Alabama Agriplex, which has facilitated Outdoor Classroom activities at Harmony long before it finally received official Outdoor Classroom School certification. 

“The Outdoor Classroom has been a true partnership with Harmony School staff including Lea Scott and Rachel Campbell, Principal Mr. (Kevin) Sullins and all the students and their families,” said Rachel Dawsey, executive director of the North Alabama Agriplex. “We were able to be a part of the beginning with our AmeriCorps VISTA Rachel Wiser working with the Alabama Wildlife Federation and April Waltz to support the school with layout, grants and the construction of the gardens.” 

She continued, “Harmony has accomplished so much with this Outdoor Classroom certification.  It is an impressive accomplishment for the school, with only 70 AWF certified Outdoor Classrooms in Alabama. West Point Primary is the only other Cullman County school district certified OC.”  

“We’re so grateful to the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the North Alabama Agriplex for helping us reach the goal of becoming a certified Outdoor Classroom,” smiled Scott. 

For more information about Harmony’s Outdoor Classroom, contact Lea Scott at lscott@ccboe.org. For more information about the North Alabama Agriplex’s educational programs, visit www.agriplex.org.  

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