Girls Scouts build outdoor classroom at Seven Islands State Birding Park

Positively Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s a positive project to come out of the pandemic. Four Girl Scout Cadettes, ages 11 to 13, spent 50 hours each to plan and build an outdoor classroom at Seven Islands State Birding Park in Kodak.

It was for the Silver Award, the highest award a Cadette can achieve, and each scout succeeded in proving their dedication to our community.

Even on a cold, dreary day, the park is a scenic sanctuary. With 614 acres and nine miles of trails, there’s plenty of room to explore.

“We have every type of bird habitat here you can imagine. We have the wetlands, we have your forest, we have your grasslands and our focus is on the grasslands for the bobwhite quail which is our umbrella species that we focus on,” Park Ranger Stephanie Mueller said.

And now, just up some steps at Hickory Ridge on park grounds, there’s a new outdoor classroom called Hickory Ridge Learning Center.

Girl Scout Troop 20034, Beaver Creek Service Unit, made it happen.

“I was excited because I like working outside and I like to help the community,” Scout Jessie Boromei said.

And work they did, putting in more than 50 hours each by digging, drilling, smoothing and sanding, and leveling.

These are skills the Scouts needed for the Silver Award. It’s not only a badge to add to the impressive number they already have. It’s the highest award for Girl Scout Cadettes, earned by planning and completing a sustainable community service project.

The classroom isn’t just built with social distance in mind; there’s a blackboard in a cabinet to protect it from the elements. Logs from the park were used to build the legs of the benches.

Grant money and fundraising for a combined total of $700 went toward lumber for bench seating and other building supplies.

“They funded this entire project,” said Clare Datillo, a park ranger and mom to a Scout. “This project didn’t cost the park a penny, which has just been really great.”

Daughter Annabel Datillo said, “Probably the hardest (thing to do) was building the benches. We had to build twelve different benches and it took a really long time.”

“This is where I learned a lot of my outdoor skills,” Scout Ana Berkheimer added.

The Scouts also learned that part of leadership is gaining wisdom from others’ experiences. Some parents stepped in to serve as guides to start the construction process.

Parent Lauren Boromei said, “They worked really hard.”

So, next time you visit Seven Islands State Birding Park, take time to relax on a bench. Listen to the birds. And appreciate the work of girls, empowered to make a difference.

“I just feel really happy about what we accomplished,” said Scout Ava Berkheimer.

The opening of Hickory Ridge Learning Center at Seven Islands State Birding Park will be at 12:45 p.m. Jan. 16.

Seven Islands State Birding Park is free and open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. It is located east of Knoxville near Kodak along the French Broad River at 2809 Kelly Lane.

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