AVONDALE >> A nature-inspired outdoor classroom, with an education kiosk designed by Eagle Scout Payton Shonk, is fostering streamside learning at Stroud Water Research Center. More than 5,000 students and adults have learned about freshwater stewardship at the outdoor classroom since its debut last fall, and on Thursday, Shonk, 18, was honored for his outstanding project. Executive Director Dave Arscott, Ph.D., and Tara Muenz, assistant director of education, honored Shonk in front of about 20 guests at the outdoor classroom dedication, including leadership from Downingtown Troop 23.
Muenz said, “Payton showed great initiative and a can-do spirit during this project.”
“I really appreciate being able to work with an organization as great as Stroud on my project, and I’m glad it is going to help people learn about water and the environment,” said Shonk, who started in the Cub Scouts at the age of 6.
The innovative design of the education kiosk, which uses environmentally friendly materials, includes a rotating two-sided display with a magnetic dry-erase board on one side and space for a permanent outdoor educational sign on the other side. Shonk also designed and constructed a box for markers and natural wood benches. Funding was provided by the E. Kneale Dockstader Foundation and the National Science Foundation Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology grant. The completed project helped earn Shonk his Eagle Scout rank in February, when he presented it during his Eagle Scout Board Review.
Located just a short walk upstream of White Clay Creek, the outdoor classroom includes rustic-looking benches, lab tables, and the education kiosk — all of which seem to naturally grow out of the woodland setting. Muenz, who saw a need to enhance learning experiences for visiting students, looked to nature for the design of the entire space.
Arscott crafted the benches and lab tables from cedar, which Muenz designed to be arranged in two semicircles for large-group discussion and water chemistry activities.
School and community groups interested in touring the new outdoor classroom, trails, and indoor research and education spaces, including the Stroud Center’s LEED Platinum Moorhead Environmental Complex, should contact Jessica Provinski at email@example.com or 610-268-2153, ext. 288, to schedule a tour. Groups interested in environmental education programs, should contact Tara Muenz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-268-2153, ext. 301.