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Mazie Gable Elementary School's outdoor classroom currently features a setup of garden boxes, a walking path, some benches and picnic tables, and it is without a single tree.

All that is about to change, though, thanks to the Red Lion school's recent victory in the Trees Rock video contest hosted by the Scotties tissue company.

After submitting a 3-minute video earlier this year and being selected as one of the top 10 finalists nationwide, the district announced on Tuesday that their energetic elementary students had been able to nab the top prize: $10,000, which will be put toward the outdoor space, and a tree-planting party which would have otherwise come with a price tag of about $4,000.

"We can’t believe we actually have money for that area," said fourth-grade teacher Carrie Lankford, who spearheaded the effort. "For years it's been digging for money. You know, we'd be recycling aluminum cans trying to get $100 together for a field trip to the recycling facility."

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. Mazie Gable's video takes place inside and outside the building, and students share all the ways trees are used in everyday life, from furniture and tools to books and shade.

In order to win the top prize, the Mazie Gable video had to draw in more votes than any of the other finalists. Red Lion Superintendent Scott Deisley said at a recent board meeting that the community support — from parents to other school districts to local businesses and restaurants — had been overwhelming.

"It’s just neat to be a part of a community that thought, 'Yeah, it's worth my time to vote every day,'" Lankford said.

The classroom: Four years ago, the school began work on its outdoor classroom, and it has been adding different features to it, courtesy of donations from the community and local organizations.

The classroom has been the beneficiary of one bigger item or feature every year or so and most recently added a compost bin after holiday break.

Lankford said some items on the top of her wish list for the outdoor space includes a shelter — so students are able to study outside even in the rain — sensory garden boxes and a rainwater collection bin to teach about the importance of conservation.

Lankford noted that kids perform better on all levels when they have access to nature. It relaxes them, it makes them feel more confident, she said.

"The money is great," Lankford said. "But having people understand what we're doing, inspiring teachers to take their kids outside to read or for a walk in the park, that's just the best."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.

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