Rustic wood siding covers the school’s façade. Faux stalagmites rise from the entrance, and a stone path stretches out to the main hallway. Museum-like exhibits line the school’s halls and it boasts a butterfly garden, a weather station, raised flower beds and an outdoor classroom.
A little over a decade ago the school system began integrating environmental education into the learning process at the elementary school. Now, that approach has taken over schools in Munford.
Environmental education is deeply engrained in every aspect of the curriculum at Munford Elementary School, Munford Middle School and Munford High School.
Munford, located just miles from the Talladega National Forest, was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service, built community partnerships and took on sponsors to begin the process of infusing environmental education into its curriculum.
Munford Elementary School and Winterboro High School in Talladega County recently received national recognition for the strides they’ve each made in environmental education. They were the only two Alabama schools, of ten schools that were nominated in the state, to achieve “green ribbon school status.”
The status is given by the U.S. Department of Education to schools that have created “green” environments.
The schools regularly receive visits from educators in from other systems who want to know more about environmental education.
The value of the experience is felt throughout the student body, said Jacob Steever, a rising senior. He added that after attending schools in nearly half a dozen states he can see that the Munford education experience stands out.
“I know what other schools are like,” Steever said. “I can tell that this is way different than any other school I’ve been to.”
Munford schools have four ponds, one of which is specifically designed as a frog habitat. The schools also have two greenhouses, one of which is equipped with fisheries equipment.
The schools also have a garden, and an area where they are planting one of almost each of the 100 tree species that are native to Alabama.
The courtyard at the high school will eventually include a small waterfall and pond, where fish native to the state will live. The courtyard in the adjoining middle school will be developed into a turtle habitat.
They are joined by a hallway where, just outside a large glass window, a replica of Salt Creek Falls can be seen.
“This entire place is a land laboratory,” said Keith Oglesby, who has been teaching agrisciene at the school for al-most three decades.
This spring high school students grew tomato plants in the greenhouse, the elementary school students planted them and science clubs will harvest and sell them in the summer. The proceeds will go to help fund future greenhouse projects.
Much of the work is coordinated by Kimberly Murray, who holds a unique position in the school. She is the school system’s first science resource teacher and it is her job to help the system integrate science education throughout the system.
It was her work that helped the ninth-graders prepare a bluebird project, which required different tasks from each of the ninth grade classes. The math class plotted locations for birdhouses and their posts, the science class researched the birds and the health class helped fix them into the ground Murray said.
Through the project, students learned core math and science principals. They also reached out to younger students.
At Murray’s direction the high school students taught the elementary school students what they’d learned about the blue bird. It’s part of the integrated teaching experience the school is striving for, she said.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.