Life Scout builds outdoor classroom for Cypress Elementary

Lauren Kriss, Editor-In-Chief

When Life Scout Matthew Cloward of Troop 323 finally earned enough merit badges to become an Eagle Scout, there was only one thing left to do: his community service project.

Immediately, Cloward knew he wanted to do a community service project for Cypress Elementary. In conjunction with the school, Cloward decided to build another outdoor classroom on the campus.

“I talked to the principal and after several meetings we determined that with the time I had and the volunteers available, building another classroom for the school would help most,” Cloward said.

Once he decided on that, he had to submit his plan for approval from the scouting leaders. According to scouting guidelines, in order for a plan to be approved, it must “present an opportunity for planning, development, and leadership.”

“If it is missing any of these elements, it won’t grow the scout enough and the scouting leaders won’t approve it,” Cloward said.

Cloward was able to show his planning abilities when he coordinated with the district to have his plan approved.

“The school district had to approve my plan and ensure that the classroom I built was safe for the children and met regulation standards,” Cloward said.

Once his plan was approved, Cloward got to work coordinating over 40 volunteers to build the classroom.

“I was excited to see how many people were able to serve through my project,” Cloward said.

Along with volunteers to help with labor, Cloward also counted on donations from Lowe’s and Home Depot in order to complete the project without spending any money of his own, a requirement of the project.

“Hardware stores were willing to donate materials simply to serve the community,” Cloward said. “It was great that so many people wanted to help. The project would have been impossible without willing volunteers and I was impressed by their generosity.”

The final product of the community’s collaborative effort was a classroom consisting of four picnic tables, with cables and locks to prevent theft, a mulch floor, and a cinder block barrier to keep the mulch in.

“The classroom will encourage learning as students participate in outdoor science projects, experience the world around them, and enjoy messy, hands-on activities,” Cloward said.

Even though Cypress Elementary had an outdoor classroom already, Cloward, a nature photographer, felt they needed another one.

“Though the school already had an outdoor classroom, many students couldn’t ever use it because so many people wanted to use it,” Cloward said. “Now, more kids can learn outside.”

In addition to its function as a classroom, Cloward envisions the space to be a community gathering spot.

“…It will serve the community as well,” Cloward said. “It is a great place to have a picnic or cool off after a long day at the park.”

Now that his project is complete, Cloward is awaiting his meeting with the  Eagle Scout Board of Review to determine if he will earn the highest rank in boy scouting. But for now, he’s happy with his work as a Life Scout.

“We were able to give a free asset to the school they can use for years to come,” Cloward said.