The Norman Transcript

August 30, 2013

Kennedy, Hitachi celebrate outdoor classroom's completion

OU basketball players join students and faculty for dedication

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN —     Four walls and a roof are not part of the $80,000 project given to Kennedy Elementary by Hitachi Computer Products (America), Inc. Friday morning. 

      Vision, passion and collaboration came to fruition as Kennedy students and faculty, Hitachi officials and some University of Oklahoma basketball players dedicated a new environmental learning space. 

The state-of-the-art outdoor space at the school, 621 Sunrise Street, is designed to be interactive with a human sundial, butterfly garden, vegetable gardens, rock garden, solar panels and agrobiology features.  Hitachi Computer Products’  gift also includes the company's volunteers maintaining the outdoor classroom for Kennedy Elementary.   

     Students and teachers of Kennedy Elementary are excited to make use of the outdoor classroom because of the many unique learning possibilities it will provide students.  Charles Wheeler, fifth-grader, said he looked forward to getting away from the noise and focusing more outside.

   “We can learn a lot about nature with flowerbeds and birdhouses.  We can learn about the ecosystem.  All of the teachers and kids will love it,” Wheeler said.

     Hitachi President George Wilson said the company envisions the dynamic learning center connecting students with the outdoors.  Hitachi Computer Products was motivated to build the outdoor classroom for Kennedy Elementary as part of Hitachi’s dedication to protect the environment, Wilson said. 

     “What better way to affect the children than a hands-on environment.  We hope this outdoor classroom will help them learn and grow,” Wilson said. 

    OU Men’s Basketball Coach Lon Kruger and players Tyler Neal, senior, from Oklahoma City, and Ryan Spangler, sophomore, from Blanchard attended the dedication to show support of the project. Neal encouraged Kennedy students to stay on top of their priorities and take advantage of their new learning space.  Coach Kruger expressed his appreciation of Hitachi Computer Products and their partnership with local businesses to provide such an opportunity for students. 

Collaboration really was key in building the outdoor classroom.  Businesses and volunteers, including Hitachi Computer Products (America), Inc., were the Hitachi Foundation, Reliable Lawn Care, Usry Plumbing, CC Environmental, Dolese Bros. Co., Red Leaf Construction, Minick Materials, Green Wind & Solar and Girl Scout Troop 600 of Moore, all worked together to make the learning space possible.

“I helped paint some of the stones.  It was a lot of work, but it was worth it to help Kennedy Elementary,” 11-year-old Girl Scout Evie LaVenture said.

At the close of the dedication, Kennedy Elementary Principal Montie Koehn presented Hitachi President Wilson with a framed photo collage of the outdoor classroom as a thank you.

Fifth-grader Jariah Eyachabbe summed up the excitement and gratitude of the dedication best. “It looks really cool,” he said. “We will have this and pass it on to the little ones.  Thank you, Hitachi.”