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Student builds outdoor classroom for Washington Discovery Academy

PLYMOUTH, Ind. -- Plymouth High School Sophomore Cameron Riddle loves to be outside.

A long-time member of the Boy Scouts, the 16-year-old wanted to pass his love of nature onto others.

"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to get the kids outdoors instead of looking at their phones,” said Riddle.

For the past two years, with help from the community, Cameron has been building an outdoor classroom at Washington Discovery Academy in Plymouth.

It’s complete with a trail, benches, a fire pit, and a bridge.

"I saw a need for nature in that area. There are a whole bunch of woods back there and I wanted to see if the kids would be interested in nature,” he said.

To make the project a reality, Cameron received more than $3,000 in grants and donations from area businesses like NIPSCO, Lowe's and Steel Warehouse.

"It's just been a lot of community support," explained Riddle. "Just cutting down the trees, just getting all the material and the supplies for it, all of the paper work. A whole lot of it to put together and I'm happy with results at the end of two years."

Those results are more than Washington Discovery Principal Lauren Cooper could've ever imagined.

"In my mind I was thinking a couple of benches, maybe some trees out of the way and things like that. When the plan actually came to fruition and I saw an entire trail being cleared out in the back of our woods, mulch being laid, bridge being built, not just benches, but yet a platform and a mobile classroom, a fire pit, all of those things. It kind of blew my mind,” said Cooper.

Students have named the outdoor classroom the “Washington Discovery Trail.”

It will be unveiled Friday afternoon to coincide with Arbor Day which is a day that encourages people to plant trees and take care of the environment.

"The opportunity to have our students learn about nature in a true hands-on setting, not out of textbook, but actually in the environment, I think is a huge opportunity for our students,” said Cooper.

To say that the kids are excited is an understatement.

"Our students are actively peeking through the curtains. They're super excited and there's a lot of anticipation, a lot of movement in the woods as to what's going on,” she explained.

Cameron says he can't wait to see students' faces when the classroom is unveiled but it's also a little bittersweet.

"To be done, it's kind of sad actually. Cause I enjoyed this process. But the joy out of it is that the kids get what they wanted and I'm just happy to see that they will be enjoying it,” he said.

Enjoyment that Cameron hopes will continue for generations to come.

Riddle said, "They are the future and I want them to learn that nature is something that we have been blessed with all our lives and we can go out there and solve a lot of problems”

After Friday’s unveiling, every student at Washington Discovery Academy will plant a tree for the new outdoor classroom.

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