Publix employees build outdoor classroom for LNLC

PELHAM – Students at the Linda Nolen Learning Center will soon have access to an outdoor classroom, thanks in part to Publix employees who volunteered their time on Tuesday, April 2, to build multiple raised garden beds and tables for the school as a part of Publix Serves Day.

On April 2, more than 7,500 Publix employees volunteered throughout the company’s seven-state service area. In Alabama, more than 200 associates helped local nonprofit organizations with food prep, landscaping, painting, minor construction tasks and general repairs.

James Lowery, Publix district manager, said 46 managers and associates from stores in Pelham, Alabaster, Helena, McCalla, Hueytown, Hoover and Tuscaloosa gathered at the LNLC to help build the outdoor classroom that will serve the entire school.

This marks the sixth year for the Publix program, but Lowery said his district tries to do something every month to help in the community.

“This is a part of our culture,” Lowery said. “It’s the foundation of our company. We are here on our own time. No one is being paid to be here. Even though we’re helping the school, we get something out of it too. It’s very rewarding for us and it gives you sense of accomplishment when you complete the task.”

Lowery said some Publix employees already had building and construction experience and others were learning for the first time.

The Publix team built five raised garden beds, three elevated tables and three pre-K raised garden beds, according to LNLC special education teacher Creig Holley. Holley said the outdoor classroom will be split into three areas – pre-K, elementary and multi-disability. Each area will be tailored to the needs of the students who will be using it.

Publix contributed $999 to the project and the school’s lemonade fundraiser brought in $1,100. Holley said the outdoor classroom will allow students to receive hands-on instruction and will help the school meet state standards for science. The area will also incorporate mathematics and technology through the use of iPads.

“This area will be used for cross curriculum, which basically means that it will be used across the board in all subjects,” Holley said. “The learning style for many students is the hands-on approach. They will be able to apply the lessons and knowledge to something else. This will also help build their confidence and independence. They love being able to do things on their own, so this will give them the perfect environment for that.”

Holley said students will help plant and maintain flowers, herbs and strawberries. The school is already growing pear, plum, peach and apple trees and six grapevines thanks to generous discount from Hollywood Gardens in Clanton.

“They will be able to watch everything grow and taste what they’ve planted,” Holley said. “In the future, we’d like to be able to do cooking classes with the food they grow in our multi-needs kitchen.”

Holley this is just the beginning for the school’s outdoor classroom. In the future, he hopes to include canvas covered area for shade, add more raised garden beds and install a gravity fed water system.