With generous donations, BES outdoor Wellness Plan project continuing

BURNEY, Calif. — With generous donations from Redding Rancheria, Sierra Pacific Industries, and others, Burney Elementary and High school teachers, administrators, and students are continuing work on creating an engaging learning environment as Phase 3 of the elementary school’s years-long Wellness Plan and project promoting education for the “whole child”.

The Wellness Plan includes an outdoor “Peaceful Playground”, and a “Wellness/Sensory room” for those children needing a quiet and serene setting to help facilitate their learning process, according to school administrators.

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Saying, “Local support has been amazing,” retired teacher, Farm to Cafeteria Consultant and Grant Coordinator volunteer Suzanne Wall, who has been spearheading the outdoor classroom project, recently told SCNS.

“Burney Elementary is pleased to connect with local businesses and high school students for projects such as this,” Wall said. “We received a generous grant of $5,000 from The Redding Rancheria toward this project, and in February Sierra Pacific Industries donated the lumber for our high school shop class to build eight much-needed tables.”

To help with the costs of the multi-phase wellness project, the school’s PTA has also been sponsoring family events, such as the very popular Math and Science Nights, as well as other fundraisers.

“We are currently writing another grant to hopefully secure the remaining funds needed,” Wall added.

SPI Forester, Chad Arseneau (R), delivers lumber to BHS shop teacher Mike von Schalacha (L). With the donated lumber, von Schalsa’s shop students will be making eight “much needed” tables for the BES outdoor classrooms. BES photo

The outdoor classrooms currently being built are actually Phase 3 of the BES Wellness Plan “that encompasses Mind, Body, and Spirit,” Wall explained.

Explaining that Phase 1 began in 2016 with a schoolwide gardening program, Wall said students learned how and continue to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers for their annual community plant sale and to harvest at school.

“The gardening program … is rapidly expanding and these outdoor classrooms are adjacent to the school’s greenhouse,” Wall told SCNS.

The BES Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is a strategic partner in the gardening program, with Kim Golzynski leading as the PTA Health and Wellness Coordinator.

Additionally, Project Share, an after-school program at BES, is involved with the gardening program and this expansion allows shared use with Project Share for many additional after-school activities. In the past, these activities primarily took place in the cafeteria, but can now be expanded outdoors, according to Wall.

Despite being delayed due to COVID concerns, a BES cafeteria food scrap/composting program is also in the works and will hopefully begin this spring, according to Wall.

Michael von Schalsa’s high-school shop class students, who are helping to build tables for the program, are seen taking delivery of a large trailer load filled with SPI supplied wood for the tables they have begun building. “They are very excited to be a part of the project,” said Wall.

Phase 2, which started in 2019 and was completed in 2020, includes a “Peaceful Playground” with socially proactive playground stations and the “BES Wellness Center/Sensory Room”, also known as “The Well”.

BES Behavior Coach Jeanine Ferguson oversees The Well, where at-risk students learn proactive calming techniques and positive methods of handling conflict, according to Wall.

Although in-person learning and independent study for the 2020-2021 school year was set to begin in late August, the ongoing, nearly year-long COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis delayed the school’s opening until the following month.

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Despite the delays and constant setbacks caused by the State’s ever-changing COVID-related health and safety changes, the “dedicated staff” at Burney Elementary School “sprung into action in August to discuss how to create socially distanced outdoor instructional spaces to help reduce the possible spread of the COVID virus,” Wall explained; enthusiastically adding, “A plan quickly took shape.”

Administrators, teachers, parents, and students alike are excited to see BES’ years-long, multi-phase Wellness Project continuing, with much more planned in the near future for the ongoing project. BES photo

“The immediate plan entails three outdoor classrooms for grades 4th, 5th, and 6th,” explained Wall. “The classrooms would be within the existing fenced greenhouse grounds, which are adjacent to the upper-grade classrooms.”

“The upper-grade teachers are excited about having an outdoor space for teaching science and environmental education,” Wall added.

Classroom #1 already has seasonal grass and six outdoor steel tables; however, umbrellas are needed for UV protection, according to Wall; who said that Classrooms #2 and #3 “have beautiful mature pine trees for shade, but still need further development.”

“The current plan entails site preparation from the District’s maintenance staff, expanding the ADA accessible sidewalk, laying high-quality artificial turf, a cyclone fence to separate the two classrooms, large whiteboards, picnic tables, and stump stools,” Wall explained.

But the creation of these outdoor classrooms for the upper grades is just the beginning of Phase 3, according to Wall; who said, “The long-term vision and outdoor spaces would be perfect for meetings, education, and artwork display.”

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“Burney Elementary hopes to have these outdoor classrooms fully functional this year,” Wall told SCNS. “But in our mind, it is just the start of many future activities that will bring our Burney kids outdoors even more to learn in this beautiful forest that we live in.”

“Having the kids learn in an outdoor setting will not only provide an engaging, relaxed setting, but will also provide space for students to work in the fresh air – which is so greatly appreciated during these times,” explained Wall.

“Outdoor learning is so critical for children,” Wall continued; adding, “Right now with the COVID virus, it is so vital for children’s health to be outdoors, as much as possible.”

“Additionally, studies show that outdoor learning delivers many benefits; including reducing stress, improving moods, boosting concentration, and increasing a child’s engagement at school,” Wall told SCNS.

“When I think back to our first meeting on September 1st and the excitement we shared of the possibilities for this area, it gives me chills,” Wall enthused; adding, “Practicality whittled down our list, but the excitement and dedication of staff, students, and families at Burney Elementary School will keep this project growing for years to come!”

To learn how you or your business can help support this ongoing project contact Burney Elementary School at (530) 335-2279.



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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

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