Mineola MS Outdoor Science Center celebration


A recognition ceremony with their partners was held for the Mineola Middle School Outdoor Science Center Friday, Sept. 27. 

It was a wonderful time of show and tell with the community able to see first-hand the learning opportunities the outdoor classroom gives the students of MISD. 

Students were posted at stations, educating guests on the exhibits and sharing their learning experience so far. 

In front of the greenhouse, students showed the plants they will be using to learn about genetics and at the chicken coop, a student talked about the life cycle of chickens. 

From aquaponics to weather and the water cycle, the students were informed and excited.

Student McKenzie Morrison showed off the aquaponics station and spoke of how much she is enjoying learning outdoors.

“It’s very fun and different from most schools. Its a good opportunity to learn about nature and how to take care of nature,” she said. 

Susan Witt, 7th grade science teacher, spear-headed this project with a vision of a greenhouse and giving her students the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Over time, as she talked about her ideas, people in the community came forward wanting to be involved. The vision grew into a dream and then became reality.

“This started with a dream, but it’s here because of you,” said Witt with tears of gratitude in her eyes. “This wouldn’t have happened without your involvement. Thanks for investing in the lives of these kids and being part of the dream.”

Phase one of the multi-year development began in 2018 with the construction of the greenhouse funded by the Mineola ISD Education Foundation. Phase two, funded with a Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant, involved the construction of the chicken coop and the aquaponics farming system. The Nestle Water/Ozarka grant supplied the water cycle and erosion stations and outdoor digital monitors. Phase three, being completed with another MISD Education Foundation grant, is raised garden beds, benches for three outdoor learning spaces and more digital monitors. 

As an extension, Witt will be taking a group of students to the state science conference in Dallas in October. At the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST), they will teach science teachers across the state about the outdoor science center and hold a workshop titled “Rethinking Our Outdoor Spaces-The Development of a Campus Outdoor Science Center.”

The donations and grants awarded for this project exceed $20,000 with more opportunities available for yearly grants to expand the unique learning space. 

Contributions include a $5,000 grant from Lowe’s, a Hewlett-Packard Grant of $500, a $500 donation from Brian and Janine Smale, a $5,000 grant from Nestle Waters and Ozarka, and $9,998 from the MISD Education Foundation.

Local organizations Fannie Marchman Garden Club, the FUMC Methodist Men’s Group, Mineola Kiwanis Club, and the Wood County Master Gardeners have also participated. East Texas Aquaponics, Athens Fisheries Center, Sherwin Williams, Higginbotham Brothers, Mineola Tractor Supply, Southwest Metal Buildings, Bob Wells Nursery, and Mineola Traders Corner have donated, and individual contributors include Gerald Kelly, Jim Franks, and Todd Witt.