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Hidden Valley has mini-nature center created by BHS grad

Alex Godfrey, Burnsville High School Class of 2014, has headed off to college, but he's left behind a wonderful gift at Hidden Valley Elementary School in Savage.

He created a mini-nature center in front of the school as part of his Eagle Scout project.

It's a feature that science specialist Patricia Mosey and Stephanie Mathews, fourth grade teacher, have wanted for awhile. "The reason is to get students outside to connect with the world around them," said Mosey.  

Every year, all students at Hidden Valley take a one-day field trip to the McColl Environmental Learning Center in Savage. "We wanted to bring some of that environment back to Hidden Valley where teachers and students can benefit every day," she said.

Mosey approached the leader of a Boy Scout troop that meets at Hidden Valley and asked if anyone was interested in creating the nature center as part of a community service project related to earning an Eagle badge, the highest rank in Scouting. The idea appealed to Godfrey who has a strong interest in the outdoors.  

He conferred with Mosey, completed a lot of research and came up with a proposal. It was approved by Mosey and by several levels of review in the Boy Scout organization.

Then Godfrey recruited volunteers to build the center in three days last spring.

The nature center, located in front of the school, is designed around four existing evergreen trees and contains 20 plants to attract butterflies. Since they don't do well in windy conditions, Godfrey also added berms topped by ornamental grasses to block the wind. He created five signs with information about the water cycle, butterfly cycle, butterfly gardens, weather and erosion.

His fundraising for the project went better than expected, so he purchased metal benches instead of wood. "They'll last longer and be easier to maintain," he said.

The project took two years from start to finish, but was worth it. Godfrey is pleased with the end result and "It's cool to see kids enjoying a different learning environment."

"Now teachers can use the space for an outdoor classroom," said Mosey, who thanks Godfrey for his wonderful work. "It's a great teaching tool to extend science and apply it to the real world."

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014 - 11:30