“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” ~William Shakespeare
Although LEAD(Leaders in Environmental Action and Development) community conservation projects are not required for GLADE graduates, many of our empowered youth engage in follow up activities that embrace their own vision for their hometown. It is a natural extension of their passion for the environment and a testing ground for their recently acquired leadership skills. Their local efforts positively impact their surroundings and inspire them to become involved in even more efforts to improve the community.
In GLADE’s second year, a grant application process was introduced which gave students the opportunity to apply for a $500 CFO/GLADE LEAD grant. The application introduces our future leaders to the grant writing world. Sponsorships, partnerships, networking, matching funds, mentoring, leveraging, and win-win become a part of their working vocabulary. Mentor teams consisting of teachers, Master Naturalists, and/or other qualified conservation consultants are assembled by the student. In addition, the young leaders can form partnerships with other GLADE students to merge their individual grant awards into one large project, thus increasing the overall scope and impact of their work.
Two students using the new grant application process envisioned a large project developed in partnership with the Ozark Upper Elementary School (OUE). Initially, Kelsey Rumley and Michael Withrow formed a mentor team consisting of OUE teachers, administrators, Master Naturalists, and GLADE staff. They each received a $500 grant. Their grand plan included the restoration and expansion of an unkempt and incomplete outdoor classroom and trail system on campus. To get the project up and running, Kelsey and Michael, with assistance their mentor team, recruited four classes of 5th grade science enrichment student and the OUE Student Council for its sizeable workforce. With the approval of school administration, the 5th graders eagerly gathered each day in the fall to mulch and line the trails and to clean up the area.
During a Saturday workday organized by OUE Project Leader Laura Swick and Project Coordinator Kelsey Rumley, four outdoor classrooms were carved out of heavy woodland by 96 students, their parents, and other community volunteers. In the waning days of autumn, the 5th graders and their teachers and families completed the trails and classrooms.
Phase II of the project began in January. Greg Samuel of PLS, Inc., Seymour, Missouri, developed Leopold Bench Kits that could be easily assembled by the 5th graders. Master Naturalists and school administrators worked with the students during their winter enrichment time to assemble 32 Leopold benches, 8 for each of the 4 outdoor classrooms. Also, the Construction Trades class at Ozark High School built picnic tables for the project to increase total seating capacity to 28 students per classroom.
2011 GLADE graduate Robert Powell implemented Phase III of the project, a native plants and prairie restoration area at the entrance to the trails. Over 250 native plants grace the entrance to the trail. To date, the $1000 grant awarded to Kelsey and Michael has blossomed to over $10,000, as school officials increase their commitment to outdoor education in Ozark. Since the OUE classroom/trail project began in the fall of 2010, work on an outdoor classroom project at another Ozark elementary school has begun. Most recent addition in the fall of 2013 was a paved handicap accessible trail.
The figurative seeds planted by young GLADE leaders germinate in other areas of the Ozarks, and the landscape of the communities has been shaped to more sustainably support its human and wildlife inhabitants. In the future there will be many more opportunities to positively impact the environment and people of the Ozarks. Student-led projects occurring within a year of the summer experience are encouraging indicators of the value of GLADE in the lives of young people, wildlife and communities in the Ozarks.
At the same time, the fact remains that some of the seeds sown during the days of the academy may lie dormant for many years. Nevertheless, we have confidence in the project’s potential, and we are in business for the long term. We are striving to provide opportunities where the well-being of both nature and people inspire our young people to demonstrate responsible and innovative leadership.