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East NHS Seniors Leave Legacy: Eco-Classroom Taking Shape

East NHS Seniors Leave Legacy: Eco-Classroom Taking Shape

A group of 120-plus Lakota East seniors in the school's National Honor Society are leaving a lasting mark on their soon-to-be alma mater. Thanks to their leadership, a new eco-classroom is beginning to take shape just outside of the school’s stadium. When complete, the space will be a fully functional, ADA-compliant classroom with student seating, a whiteboard, Wifi connectivity, overhead shade and beautiful surrounding landscape. 

“We decided to keep moving forward with the environmental aspect [started by last year’s NHS class] while still giving back to our school in some way,” said NHS President Shelby Alderman, referencing last year’s solar array service project. 

From working with the district architect on the project blueprint to engineering an underground piping system to overcome the new space’s drainage issues, senior and project manager Shika Susarla has provided oversight every step of the way. She and her NHS peers have given up countless hours after school and on weekends to refine the design, excavate the space, lay gravel and mark off the sidewalk, for example - all to leave the space better than they found it.

While the manual labor alone would have been enough to consume the group, they have also had to grapple with the challenges unique to completing such a large project during a pandemic. “Some of our ideas and plans along the way have been shut down because of COVID precautions,” explained Susarla, referencing things like the cancellation of their most profitable fundraiser. “We’ve had to move on and not dwell too much on what could have been.”

Lakota East teacher and NHS co-advisor Stuart Maine acknowledged that the year was filled with a lot of “we can’t do that because of COVID” conversations.” “But they were able to pivot and roll with the punches and I give them a lot of credit for that,” she said.

With all the hurdles, this year’s group is preparing next year’s NHS seniors to pick up where they left off this year in hopes that the outdoor classroom will be functional by next spring. Even if all the current COVID-19 precautions are a thing of the past, the group feels passionate that the need for an outdoor learning space isn’t going away. 

“If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we should have been taking mask breaks long before we ever had to wear masks,” said Alderman, noting the benefits of midday breaks for some fresh air and sunshine.

“Taking class outside is a good change of pace and scenery and gives you a little bit of relief every day,” added NHS Vice President Lyna Sennoun