The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 20, 2011

Grove Valley receives national award

Deer Creek school, Tinker AFB join efforts to move wetlands

EDMOND — Deer Creek Grove Valley Elementary School has been selected as the 2011 Take Pride in America National Award winner for the outstanding school program in the nation.

Debbie Straughn, Grove Valley’s principal, was in Washington, D.C., Monday to represent the school as both she and the school were honored at the Take Pride in America National Awards Ceremony and Reception held in their honor at The White House.

“Our panel of judges was impressed by the hard work and dedication you have demonstrated with your volunteer service,” said Lisa Young with the U.S. Department of the Interior. “We are privileged to honor such accomplishments ... and to recognize your outstanding commitment to public lands. ”  

Grove Valley, in partnership with Tinker Air Force Base, has built a new outdoor classroom that boasts federally protected wetlands.

An Air Force Military Construction Project required removal of a small wetlands and relocation away from the Air Base where bird strike concerns would not be an issue. It also required the replacement of the wetlands to help meet national goals of “no-net loss of wetlands.”

“Grove Valley Elementary is pleased to be the off-base partner and location for this wetlands,” Straughn said.

The cost of the $55,000 wetlands and outdoor classroom was paid for by a government grant. Construction began in January with final contouring and establishment of native vegetation being completed in the spring.

“A culminating task for creation of the wetlands is the planting of native aquatic plants along the shoreline and in the shallow zones of the wetlands,” Straughn said. “To accomplish this Tinker biologists and partners formulated a planting plan and a celebration event called Marsh Madness.”

Grove Valley Elementary students provided the labor and experienced their own creation of nature at the Outdoor Classroom and Wetlands Dedication Ceremony April 22, which was also Earth Day. Military and government dignitaries were on hand for the event.

According to a press release issued by the school, Tinker Air Force Base officials said, “The celebration involving multiple government and public agencies as well as local schools and non-governmental agencies demonstrates how partnering activities can benefit both the military and the communities in which they reside. In times of economic crunch, these types of initiatives are more important than ever.”

More than 600 volunteers and 2,300 volunteer hours were involved in completing the project including planting 1,500 water plants. Trails, bridges, spillways and more than 20 species of vegetation were planted around the body of water that now is stocked with fish. In the fall the students will plant trees.

Straughn was concerned that a large, old tree in the wetlands area be saved, and with the help of Mark Bays, with Oklahoma Forestry Services, the tree was saved.

 In addition to Tinker Air Force Base, the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, Land Legacy, Oklahoma County Conservation Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Forestry Services worked with Straughn to complete the project of moving the wetlands to a 3-acre piece of land on school property.

“The celebration involving multiple government and public agencies as well as local schools and non-governmental agencies demonstrates how partnering activities can benefit both the military and the communities in which they reside,” Straughn said.

“In times of economic ‘crunch’ these types of initiatives are more important than ever,” she said. “This project also demonstrates the ‘teamwork’ philosophy and ‘stretch metrics’ of Tinker Leadership.”

At the request of Sen. Jim Inhofe, Straughn testified before Congress about this project in the spring of 2010. Students throughout Grove Valley watched in their classrooms via Smart boards and were able to Skype with their principal afterwards.
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