Outdoor Education Center
Nestled in the western corner of James Cole Elementary School sits the Cole Outdoor Education Center. The Cole Outdoor Education Center was created shortly after the school was opened in 1988 by the Cole PTO. This three-acre area is surrounded by a chain-link fence and contains as a centerpiece a one-acre pond. Legend has it that the pond was once a small gravel pit in the earlier days of Stockwell. The pond is surrounded by a gravel path. On one side of the pond is the amphitheater seating area where whole class experiences can occur. On the other side of the pond sits the shelter that was put in place with a cement floor and tables for learning experiences requiring teamwork or writing. Surrounding the pond are trees and many different types of plants. On the north end of the Cole Outdoor Education Center sits the Cole Wetlands. This wetland area was created when Keep Stockwell Beautiful, one of the smallest affiliates of Keep America Beautiful in the world, received a grant from Lowes to rejuvenate the space. The invasive willows were removed and in place three wetland ponds were created along with two docks that allow students and teachers access to up close and personal learning. The wetland also contains a bat house, a rain garden, and an apple orchard. Cole teachers have access to this space for a variety of educational experiences. Students have been known to explore footprints, scat, fish (mostly small blue gill are caught), and explore the insect life around the pond and wetlands. We also sometimes have the privilege of watching from a respectful distance as a mama Canadian Goose cares for her nest and her babies. The Outdoor Education Center is sometimes open to the public for exploration and "Strolls in Serenity". 4 1/3 laps around the track equals a mile so visitors can exercise and also commune with nature. This space has many purposes and is an integral part of what makes Cole unique.
In days gone by every child knew what the milkweed plant was and how it was important to the life cycle of a monarch butterfly. As life has quickened and long walks down gravel roads have been replaced by long commutes to ball practices and other events, some of these touches have gone away. At James Cole Elementary School, we are fortunate to call this area our own. It is a lovely space.