Help Mazie Gable Elementary win funds for outdoor space

Jessica Schladebeck

Mazie Gable Elementary School is one step closer to winning $10,000 to expand and improve its outdoor classroom.

Students working in the garden boxes in Mazie Gable's outdoor classroom.

The Red Lion elementary school earlier this year sent in their three-minute video submission to the Trees Rock contest hosted by the tissue company Scotties. It has since learned it is one of the top 10 finalist from around the country. The contest, for third- through sixth-graders, asked students to create a video describing the importance of trees, whether it be by way of poem, play or song.

First place is $10,000 cash and a tree-planting event and party totaling about $4,000. Contest runners-up will win prizes ranging from $500 to $7,000.

Mazie Gable's video takes place inside and outside of the building, and students share all the ways trees are used in everyday life, from furniture and tools to books and shade, said fourth-grade teacher Carrie Lankford, who spearheaded the effort.

The idea started through conversations with a handful of fifth-grade students and eventually grew to include four students from each grade level.

"Everyone knows at least one person in that video, which makes them a lot more invested," Lankford said. "The idea of the video involved our whole school because the outdoor classroom is for everyone."

The classroom: Four years ago the school began work on its outside classroom, which currently features a walking path, garden boxes, benches and  picnic tables, all courtesy of donations from the community and local organizations. They also have been recycling aluminum cans and have put those funds toward the project, Lankford said.

They have been able to add one item or so each year, she said, adding most recently parents donated a compost bin after the holiday break.

Mazie Gable's outdoor classroom

"So we've basically been working off of donations," Lankford said. "It'd be astronomical what we could do with $10,000."

Lankford said she hopes the space will eventually include a shelter — which demonstrates rain water collection — sensory garden boxes, as well as a creative space and natural study areas where students can look more closely at native species.

"When I started doing research for this project, one of the bigger things I looked at was where the kids I teach live," she said. "And because of where they live, a lot of them don't have an accessible natural space. They may have a patch of grass in the yard or something like that, but unless they go to park they can't necessarily watch birds; they don't get to plant a garden."

Lankford said through the outdoor classroom she hopes to create stewards of the environment.

"Of course we want our students to be outside," she said. "They have to come to connect with and understand it in order to appreciate it."

You can help: To vote for Mazie Gable's video and keep up-to-date on the contest rankings visit There, voters will be asked for their email address and then redirected to the voting page.

Those interested in voting can do so every day, once a day, through Feb. 7.

Lankford said the community can also sign up to receive free daily reminders that encourages them to vote by sending a text to 81010 with the message @mgoutdoors.

Reach Jessica Schladebeck at