Since 1958, the Environmental Lab Area has provided an educational and hands-on lesson for the science classes at Shawnee Mission East. Faculty member Russell Debey chooses to utilize the area’s practical lessons into his classroom.
“It’s changed through the years as to what’s been out there,” Debey said. “We’re still using those things for classroom uses, trying it to extend my Environmental 2 class as it meets curricular needs.”
Students learn what type of animals and plants inhabit the area, such as native Kansas grasses, as well as how to conduct water quality tests. Debey feels that teaching maintenance of the area is just as important as the actual species growing in the area.
“We’re constantly out there trying to get rid of unwanted grasses and plants that don’t want to be in there, like Thistle or Lamb’s Quarters.”
While Debey now corrects students that consider the area a “garden”, he still has big plans for different uses of the area.
“It’s not a garden,” Debey said. “We’re not growing fruits and vegetables out there just yet.”
More recently, a multi-year ecology project has been implemented to reestablish the once prairie-like fields. The environmental classes are involved in the project as well.
“The idea is to try to get this back as close to a native prairie as we can,” Debey said. “It’s small steps.”