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Oasis outdoor education park plan unveiled

By Staff | Jun 28, 2018

Oasis Elementary School teacher Janet Altini wanted something special to replace the park at the school that was destroyed by Hurricane Irma, and she enlisted the help of her students to help make it happen.

On Tuesday, at Rotary Park’s environmental center, a conceptual design for an outdoor learning center was unveiled to students, teachers and Mayor Joe Coviello.

Altini said the new “place-based” outdoor learning center was a near year-long process. Ensite came up with the concept and Altini and her students had to sell the idea to the both Cape Coral Charter School Authority and the Cape Coral City Council, both of which supported the idea, provided neither governing board would have to find funding for the project.

“I am very excited and very determined. It is a very worthy project and it’s something the kids have seen come to fruition over the year and they’ve done hard work,” Altini said. “They’re giving back to the community as children, imagine what they’ll do as adults.”

The facility, which received input from students and parents via a survey, would include an outdoor classroom with bench seating, fitness-, science- and nature-based play areas with native vegetation, covered walkways and rubberized playground surfaces.

Ensite designed the project. Owner Brian Smith said they did the land plan and the concept. Keith Cramer with King Engineering convinced them to get involved.

“He thought we would be a good fit to help them out. The original input was from the teachers and what they wanted, but then they did a survey of what they wanted in an outdoor classroom,” Smith said. “We were able to incorporate many of those features in the design area.”

The old playground was already aging and crumbling and prone to flooding when the storm hit, and this new facility will be a welcome change, students said.

“I really like the idea of the outdoor classroom. Now, it won’t flood because it was always an issue and we wouldn’t get to have recess,” said Myles Drake, 10, a former student of Altini. “We designed and made the survey and helped design the park.”

“Recess is very important. Irma destroyed all of it and now we’re making it better,” said classmate Emilio Navarro. “I was happy everyone liked it because it meant building a new playground.”

“Our old playground was there a very long time and it started to get boring after using it for so long,” said Ben Cerny. “It flooded all the time and looked hideous. The steps are cracked and the awning came off. I’m glad we’re putting in something a little more fun.”

Coviello said the outdoor learning center is a very unique idea that will bring a different perspective to learning.

“I’m glad the kids have taken the initiative. It beats sitting home and playing Nintendo and, if they want to be environmentally friendly and educated, that’s great for society in general,” Coviello said.

The estimated cost of the project is $360,000, which will be paid for through fundraising efforts. Altini said the park may be opened in phases and that it would take three to four months to get the grounds ready.

Altini said she is confident the outdoor learning center will come to fruition, even if it takes some time.

“We may have to phase it in over time, but my next incoming class will start working on it and it will be a community project we will work on together,” Altini said.

Those interested in giving can contact the Charter School Foundation. Money can also be sent to Oasis Elementary School, which will in turn be sent to the foundation.