By Laurelle Walsh
An industrious crew of volunteers is upgrading outdoor structures that are used for learning and play by students at two local schools.
Winthrop Kiwanis members Don Carlson, Carl Miller, Bob Stone, Dick Evans and John Owen were at Classroom in Bloom — the teaching garden at Methow Valley Elementary School — on Tuesday morning (June 23), pouring new concrete footings and cutting away string netting that supports a grapevine on a gazebo called “The Learning Circle.”
“This whole thing will be a lot sturdier once we get through,” said Miller, a regular helper at Kiwanis construction projects.
The Learning Circle is an outdoor classroom used by Classroom in Bloom instructors to teach about gardening, soils and nutrition, and is a popular space with students, Executive Director Kate Posey said.
The 10 untreated posts that have supported the gazebo for the last decade have rotted underground, so one-by-one the construction team has excavated around their bases, cut the posts off above ground, and bolted steel plates to their clean-cut ends. New concrete footings are then poured around the protruding ends of the plates to secure each post to the earth.
String netting that covered the open-air “roof” of the gazebo was sagging under the weight of grape and other vines that form a living ceiling over the Learning Circle each summer. When the volunteers are finished, the vines will be supported by sturdy wire mesh nailed to the gazebo’s roof beams.
The last job at Classroom in Bloom will be replacing the Learning Circle’s hay-bale seats with wooden benches. Winthrop Kiwanis has assisted Classroom in Bloom with several construction projects since its inception in 2004, and has also provided funding over the years. “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Classroom in Bloom,” Owen said.
Winthrop Kiwanis is also at Little Star Montessori School this summer refurbishing that school’s “Louie” — a log play structure that was named for Lou Childers, who spearheaded its construction more than two decades ago, according to Miller.
New structural logs are replacing old, rotten ones, and a new roof is being put on the Louie. The wooden structure will also be power-washed and water-sealed.
Kiwanis volunteers will also be extending the perimeter fence around Little Star’s playground this summer. Besides providing labor, Winthrop Kiwanis is footing the bill for materials for both schools’ projects.
“All in all it’s a busy building season for us, helping programs that are an important part of helping our children learn, grow, and become good citizens,” said Owen.