Creating a classroom with a view
Superior Middle School's outdoor classroom received an upgrade Saturday, thanks to Eagle Scout Noah Ilenda. The 17-year-old coordinated a workday that added a quarter mile of mowed trail, two classroom clearings and an 84-foot boardwalk to the we...
Superior Middle School’s outdoor classroom received an upgrade Saturday, thanks to Eagle Scout Noah Ilenda. The 17-year-old coordinated a workday that added a quarter mile of mowed trail, two classroom clearings and an 84-foot boardwalk to the wetland area south of the school.
"At this point I can’t even estimate or visualize how many students will be impacted," said Stephanie Francis, a sixth grade science teacher at the school. "It’s a great thing when you can bring the community together to do something positive."
The seeds of the project began in 2007, when Minerva Makela donated more than three acres of land to the Superior School District through West Wisconsin Land Trust. The parcel is part of both the Nemadji River and Faxon Creek drainage areas, a snapshot of Superior wetlands showcasing both their water-holding capacity and rich habitat.
"She donated it to us, we worked with the school district to transfer it to them," said Jane Anklam, Northwoods land conservation manager with the trust. Although there were no conservation easements on the property, Makela’s intent was to preserve the wetlands adjacent to the airport. The district, Anklam said, has honored that.
Sixth grade science teachers take weekly "phenology Friday" trips to the wetlands to observe phenomenon caused by the changing of the seasons.
"We try to take them out every Friday through the school year, snow or not, we get them outside to make observations," Francis said. Yet they found muddy conditions and fear of damaging the area restricted limited what they could do.
Noah, a member of Boy Scout Troop 213 based out of Concordia Lutheran Church, learned that the teachers wanted to build a nature trail through the site. Coincidently, he was seeking an Eagle Scout project to perform.
"I like to spend my time outdoors, so this is kind of a fun project for me," said Noah, a Superior High School senior.
Only 2 percent of troop members will go on to tackle an Eagle Scout project, said Troop 213 Scout Leader Gene Rosburg. The undertaking hones a scout’s skills and leadership ability.
"I always like to find a project they think is bigger than can be done in one day," Rosburg said. He enjoys seeing that "ah-ha" moment when the project gets done on that timetable.
Work on the trail swung into high gear this spring. Noah’s original walkway plan, cedar boards laid into the ground, was revamped after going through a DNR permitting process. The new blueprint called for his crew to dig posts and create an above-ground boardwalk. Campbell Lumber in Superior and Lake States Lumber of Duluth donated materials and design know-how for the project. Family, friends and troop members supplied the muscle. Noah oversaw the nearly 30 workers. As Rosburg predicted, it was done in a day.
"We built a wonderful walkway over the wetlands," he said, with Noah running the show.
The toughest part for the teen was the fact that he took a hands-off role Saturday.
"As a part of the Eagle Scout project, I am not allowed to help and dig," Noah said. "I can’t do the work, so I’m supposed to lead."
Maintenance of the trail will now fall to the school district, but this partnership is far from over.
"We’re thinking that this is like the start of something big," Noah said. "Other people from the troop might expand on this for their Eagle Scout projects. That would be great."