Student returns to benefit school with new outdoor classroom
- Written by Kathy Parks
Woodland Hills Elementary School now has an outdoor classroom thanks to the efforts of Kingwood resident Nathan Valenti. A Scout and a senior at Kingwood High School, Valenti built the classroom as his Scout Eagle project. "I was a student at Woodland Hills Elementary," said Valenti. "I wanted to give something back to my old school." Eagle projects serve as a showcase of a Scout's leadership skills. Only 2 percent of those who enter Scouting earn the rank. Valenti planed his project, made a presentation to the school, secured sponsors to finance the project, acquired the necessary materials, handled staffing, and monitored the project and its documentation from beginning to end. "Before beginning the project, it was approved by Principal Pat Buttermore and Assistant Principal Debbie Beard. "I went to the school and talked with a science teacher, Jan Johnson, about the design of the classroom," said Valenti. "She said she hoped for outdoor classroom built of natural materials. She also wanted Internet access." Valenti said that the classroom he completed on Dec. 8-9 has a grass floor, a teaching station with Internet access and seats for approximately 25 students. The seats he designed have a rough finish for a natural look. "I feel like this classroom is my baby," said Valenti. "It was exciting to get the project from the paper to schoolyard." According to Valenti, designing the project on paper was relatively easy, but transferring the design to the schoolyard was the hardest part. He said he worried that if the posts were misplaced, he would not recognize the problem until posts were set in concrete. This type of mistake had the potential for wasting valuable time and recourses. For Valenti, spray painting the positions on the grass was the most stressful part of the project. Valenti said he was grateful to his father, Nick, an engineer, for his support of the project. "The labor for the project was provided by Scouts in Troop 1377," said Valenti. "I could not have done this project without their help. They came excited about working and they really worked hard." Valenti said his project was not without obstacles. He said he had the crew mix concrete too early, and to prevent it from setting, the boys were forced to continually stir the concrete. He also said that his crew was using a power auger that developed a hydraulic fluid leak. While the repair was made, the crew had to dig 26-inch holes with a post-hole digger. He said his crew never got discouraged and rebounded quickly. "I was happy with the turnout," said Valenti. "I had 33 people assisting on the project. Some were from Troop 1377 and others were my friends. Several of the people were also Eagle Scouts, so they knew exactly what I was going through. I was grateful to have them on the crew." Valenti and his team worked for two full days to complete the project. He gave credit to his sponsors, who provided materials or cash needed to buy supplies. He said hardware was provided by Home Depot in Humble and The Ace Hardware in Kingwood. Cash for supplies was provided by Sterling McCall Honda and Doug and Bud Scherr of Valence Operating, who personally donated $600 for materials. H-E-B in Town Center provided donuts for the volunteer work crew. Wal-Mart provided drinks and Kroger donated bottled water for the workers. Arnold's Landscapes donated construction tools and consulted. Rapid Refill supplied pamphlets to advertise the project. Now that the project is completed, Valenti will go through a debriefing with the Scout Council to determine whether the work experience was appropriate for earning Eagle Rank. A decision on the project will be made within three months. Valenti is currently applying at several colleges, including Texas A&M, University of Texas, Sam Houston, Texas Lutheran and Virginia Tech. He plans to be a biology student next fall.