On one of the first really nice spring afternoons of the year, kindergartners at Horace Mann Laboratory School on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University took full advantage by heading outside to plant trees.
Of course they had a little help. Travis Stokes, the university's landscape supervisor, was on hand to do most of the heavy lifting as the students set out a total of seven new trees: three Ohio buckeyes and four American elms.
The tree-plantings were something of a warm-up for last night's outdoor classroom celebration at Horace Mann's west playground. A crowd of about 200 parents and children were expected to attend the hot dog supper, which was organized with assistance from the university's agriculture communications class.
Highlighting the evening was another tree planting featuring preschool and pre-kindergarten students from Horace Mann's Leet Center, which comprises the school's early childhood programs.
Leet Center Director Cindy Scarbrough said the event was intended as a kick-off for the outdoor classroom project, which is scheduled for completion by the time a new school year starts next fall.
Scarbrough said some of the funds for the new facility were raised during a recent "art show" in which parents were encouraged to purchase paintings and drawings from their children.
When finished late this summer, the classroom-without-walls will embrace an outdoor art studio, music stage, "messy materials" area and a sand pit.
Scarbrough said there are also plans to construct a "huge" treehouse dedicated to the memory of the late JoAnn Marion, a longtime teacher at Horace Mann, and her husband, Marvin, who is also deceased.
The classroom will also contain a gathering area open to all students attending classes on campus, from pre-school through college.
The Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families at Northwest is an educational setting for children that also serves as a teaching and research laboratory for education majors, faculty and staff.