Eagle Scout revitalizes outdoor classroom at Showell

Kids at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School can now go outside the classroom to learn, thanks to the help of Eagle Scout Michael Thompson.

“They have a pond there. It was really overgrown, and no one really used it. I thought the idea of elementary students being able to be out there during the day would be great,” said Thompson, who brought the outdoor classroom back to life for his Eagle Scout project. “I built these planter boxes and everything so the environmental science classes could go outside and participate in horticulture.”

Thompson, 18, who resides in Ocean View, worked with Showell reading specialist Debra Buffington to ensure the revitalized outdoor classroom had what the school needed.

“It was really nice. He contacted me. He would come up after school and talk about what we were looking for. It was partially there — it just needed to be completely cleaned out and renovated,” said Buffington, noting that the area had not been used in at least a decade.

“We wanted to have some planter boxes because the first-graders have a little science unit where they plant seeds. This year, we were able to plant sunflower seeds outside, and now when they come back as second-graders they can harvest them and hang them on the fence for the birds. So they can see the purpose.”

Thompson, who thanked his father, Jim, for his help throughout the process, said the project took about six months of planning.

“I was able to get it done with about 175 hours of planning and execution. It took about a weekend doing the hands-on project, but the planning took a lot of time.”

“Michael did the entire thing. He drew it up. He got some younger scouts to come out and help do the physical labor… He was basically the boss,” said Buffington. “He was just a really nice young man.”

Thompson said helping build the outdoor classroom was a fun experience and he was glad to give students a place for hands-on learning.

“I saw a great opportunity and definitely wanted to make an impact that would last a while, while also affecting the community,” he said. “I hope to see it stays in good condition and used for the next several years. I definitely hope it makes an impact on the students’ learning process and makes learning more hands on and enjoyable for them.”

“We find a lot of kids these days don’t really understand that you take a seed, you put it in the ground, and that’s how you actually grow food… That there’s a purpose for the gardening,” Buffington added.

Now that the outdoor classroom is complete, Buffington said more teachers will be using the outdoor space.

“One of our teachers got a composter donated to the school from Lowe’s,” she said. “So we’ll have it out there this year, and the kids can see how it works.”

Buffington said that the kids were able to enjoy the classroom this past spring, following Thompson’s completion of the project.

“I even had some kids who wanted to give up their recess at the end of the year to go out and help weed it.”

Thompson, who is a member of Ocean View Troop 281, has been in the Boy Scouts of America since Tiger Cubs.

“My oldest brothers were in scouting, and so was my father. Both of my older brothers are Eagle Scouts also. So I was introduced by them. I really enjoyed it, so I stuck with it.”

Having graduated this past June from Indian River High School, Thompson will be attending Flagler College in Florida this fall to study business administration, with a minor in pre-law.

“I’m hoping to go to law school to practice business law and specialize in outer-space law. I’m hoping to be working with companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, and human transport companies and other aerospace companies as their attorney.”

Thompson said he loved the experiences and knowledge Boy Scouts provided and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone.

“I really enjoyed the camping. Sometimes we would go on really interesting trips. One was out to Philmont [Scout Ranch] in New Mexico. We hiked over 150 miles and climbed two different mountains. All the gear we had was on our back for the week, and that’s all we could use. It was really interesting to try to work with our team of hikers and get through it,” he said.

“I really think Scouts builds a young boy into a man. Not a lot of programs give that opportunity. Of all the possible programs boys can enter, I think Scouting is definitely one of the best.”

Buffington said the outdoor classroom will be used by all grades within the school.

“Any teacher that wants to use it for any reason could,” she said. “Just the fact that we have a little place where the kids can go outdoors… It’s pretty when the pond is plugged in, the waterfall is running, and we have the frogs and fish. The kids just love that.”

Thompson said he is proud to now join the rank of Eagle and happy to see that someone so young can make such an impact.

“It was great to see that a young kid like me can put something together and actually make something. It was great that Scouts gives us that opportunity, and it made me feel good that I put this together and it came together really nicely.”