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Kelowna school to build outdoor exploration centre

Pearson Road Elementary project four years in the making

An exciting addition to Pearson Road Elementary School is moving closer to reality.

The school has spent the last four years working on the development of an outdoor exploration centre, a greenhouse initiative to increase the natural vegetation on the school grounds and raise environmental awareness among students.

Pearson Road Elementary principal Rob Zoppi said the centre will offer a hands-on approach to cultivate strategies for sustainable food sources and bring a greater understanding to Okanagan region indigenous plants and fauna.

“We have about 10 acres on our school site and there is no tree or plant life other than the grass so we’ve been talking about how to repurpose some of that unused space for an outdoor exploration centre. It takes learning outside of the classroom for our students,” Zoppi said.

Isabel Alves-Vicente (Contributed)

An inspiration behind the project has also been long-time Pearson kindergarten teacher Isabel Alves-Vicente, affectionately known as ‘Miss V,’ who is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), for which there is no cure.

Zoppi said her passion for this project has been an emotional driver for students and staff to see it become a reality.

“There are multi-levels to this but one is for this centre to be a living tribute to what Miss V has done for this community. She has been a kindergarten teacher at this school for 25 years, which for me is unheard of for someone to be at one school for so long,” he said.

“She was on her third generation of families that have come through our school.”

Zoppi said they hope that Alves-Vicente will be well enough to attend the planned opening of the centre in October.

The outdoor centre is budgeted to cost $55,295.36 for construction and site preparation. That cost has been covered by Pearson school funds, parent advisory council support, a grant pending from the Kiwanis Club and volunteer support of labour, expertise and gifts-in-kind.

“Isabel’s brother-in-law Chuck Cullen has been an integral part for us on the construction to help us navigate through all that,” Zoppi said.

Rutland Secondary School students have also taken on the challenge to build outdoor planter boxes for the greenhouse-grown plants to be placed outdoors when the weather heats up, with some having attended elementary school at Pearson.

Those serving on the outdoor centre planning committee along with Zoppi include Grade 1 teacher Sarah Korzinski, kindergarten teachers Allison MacAfee and Claire Barclay, Grade 2/3 teacher Lynn White, Grade 4/5 teacher Anneka Konopada, Indigenous advocate Elaine Mearns and Pearson Strong Start coordinator Debbie Dachwitz.

Zoppi said anyone interested in donating there time, money or gifts-in-kind to the project can contact him at the school, call 250-870-5118, to get more information about what is specifically needed.

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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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