A Community Ministry of Calvary Baptist Church

Outdoor Classroom @ Alton Middle School

by Advantage News on April 8, 2016

ALTON — Rock Spring 2020, in cooperation with Alton Middle School, Lewis and Clark Community College, Sierra Club, YouthBuild and community volunteers, announced it is “ready to roll” into Rock Spring Park on Friday, April 15, as part of the country’s Global Youth Service Days.  

More than 250 Alton Middle School seventh-graders, under the direction of science teacher Sig Utgaard and his teaching colleagues, will spend the day working in 10 stations ranging from the middle school garden to invasive species removal and preparing a trail to a newly proposed outdoor classroom project in Rock Spring Park.

“Sig’s efforts and that of the rest of our community partners is key in the organization’s mission to revitalize Rock Spring Park,” Rock Spring 2020 Chairman Greg Gelzinnis said. “As we started asking ourselves ‘why does someone want to visit Rock Spring Park’ today … education, recreation, relaxation and celebration are a big part of what is driving our master plan for the park moving forward.”  

“When Sig shared this idea with us for National Day of Service, we were very excited to partner,” Sierra Club Three Rivers Project Coordinator Virginia Woulfe-Beile said. “Getting students out of the classroom and into nature is a key component of our environmental education initiative and seeing the effects of ‘just letting vegetation run wild’ is a teaching moment for us in the outdoor classroom of Rock Spring Park.”

Another component of the day under the direction of Scott Moss, director of restoration ecology at Lewis and Clark Community College, is the building of a bioswale.

“This project will create a ‘learning landscape’ for Alton Middle School Students and the public,” Moss said. “This particular bioswale will assist with a storm water control problem just north of the existing tennis courts and provide another habitat for wildlife.”

The project also will involve members of the AmeriCorps YouthBuild organization under the direction of Sabrina Davis.  “Being able to assist with this project and participate in Global Youth Service Days is just another way that the participants in our program can use their skills, continue acquiring new skills and give back to their community,” Davis said.

Volunteers who would like to be a part of Global Youth Service Day are welcome and can contact Woulfe-Beile at (618) 462-6802 for information.  Those interested in joining the efforts of Rock Spring 2020 also are invited to attend the committee’s regular meetings at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at Main Street United Methodist Church, 1400 Main St; or can call Greg Gelzinnis at (618) 550-9291.  

Part of the work that will be done during Global Youth Service Day is in preparation for a project being spearheaded by Chaplain Marc Lane through the Calvary Cares program of Calvary Baptist Church. The project is to create an outdoor classroom for Alton Middle School within Rock Spring Park.  

“This outdoor classroom project will be the culmination of a summer of projects for Alton Middle School students through Calvary Cares,” Lane said. “While this is a project that Calvary is taking the lead on, it is most certainly our hope for it to be a catalyst for other members of the faith community to get involved as well. Now is the time for the faith community to be a unifying force in the Greater Alton area, and Rock Spring Park is certainly a wonderful place to begin.”

Rock Spring 2020 is a standing committee of the Drug Free Alton Coalition, which aims to reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in the Alton and Godfrey area, particularly among youths. Residents also are encouraged to join the work of the coalition and can find information at drugfreealton.com