New greenhouse leads to big plans

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published June 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
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Sulphur Rock Magnet School students, school board members and Citizens Bank representatives gather with Sulphur Rock science-lab teacher Pam Baxter at the official ribbon cutting for the school’s new outdoor ecology center in May. The center was funded by a grant from the bank.

— When Pam Baxter looked out at the bare-boned greenhouse on the campus of Sulphur Rock Magnet School, she knew the school deserved more.

With a grant from Citizens Bank’s Education Initiative under her belt, Baxter set to work adding a cover to the greenhouse, planting trees, adding picnic tables and buying supplies to turn the space into an outdoor ecology lab and classroom. By the end of May, the area was ready for its official ribbon cutting. But that doesn’t mean Baxter is done with improvements.

“Now I’m looking at a grant to help with sustainability,” Baxter said.

The science-lab teacher said she hopes the space will soon include compost bins, rain barrels, recycling bins and a food-producing garden.

“We can do so much with the space,” Baxter said. “We can grow molds or fungus to study or just be outside on a pretty day.”

In addition to Baxter using the space for her own lab classes for kindergartners through sixth-graders, classroom teachers at Sulphur Rock will be able to sign up to use the outdoor classroom for lessons next year.

The renovations used all but $1 of Baxter’s grant from Citizens Bank, which was for about $4,100, Citizens Bank Senior Vice President Karen Shaw said.

“This is the perfect example of why Citizens Bank started the program,” Shaw said. “It’s a chance for students in the community and everyone at the school to get involved with the outdoors. We couldn’t be more proud of Pam and her work.”

Baxter’s project also benefited students from the Batesville High School FFA program, who were paid to build the picnic tables for the outdoor classroom.

“I tried to shop and use local materials whenever I could in the project,” Baxter said.

Although Sulphur Rock students had a chance to help build the new outdoor area by spreading gravel, they will have to wait until the 2013-2014 school year to reap the full benefits.

“I think we’ll do a container garden right away in August,” Baxter said. “When it starts to get cold, we can just move everything into the greenhouse. It’s a perfect setup.”

Baxter plans to have the school’s two science clubs maintain the building and plants, with help from her science-lab classes.

“The kids have been excited about this from the very beginning,” Baxter said. “They saw it all come together and can’t wait to come back and get to use everything.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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