NOLANVILLE — They watched and cheered as pumpkins, watermelons, tomatoes and eggs dropped from the rooftop and splattered on the covered sidewalk below.
At the edges of the rear parking lot, along the sidewalk encircling Cavazos Elementary School, in the grass, on the playground and all over, students measured, calculated, read and wrote.
Beneath sunny skies amid a gentle breeze Monday there was No Child Left Inside.
Since the school opened in 2009, teachers have set aside a day to take students outside for learning out of doors.
In recent years, including this week, the day began with students and staff members standing inside a chalked ribbon outline to express breast cancer awareness.
With everyone gathered, fifth-grade teacher Dennis Marler took a microphone and helped guide a series of demonstrations of gravity as colleagues dropped various sized fruit and eggs from the roof.
With the splattering completed and cleaned up, students got to work on their regular lessons, many taking place outside.
Marler explained the day of learning outside in one word: enthusiasm.
Students always look forward to the unusual day of school, and more and more teachers are taking advantage of the chance to conduct part of their teaching out of their classrooms.
“They knew it would hit at the same time,” Marler said of his fifth-graders watching the demonstration of dropped fruits. “This puts into play what they learn in the classroom in a hands-on activity.”
Marler has been an advocate of learning science creatively and taking school outside since before Cavazos Elementary opened seven years ago and was one of the pioneers of Killeen ISD’s elementary Science Olympiad.
Looking around Monday, he pointed out the large number of teachers with their classes outside teaching a wide variety of disciplines.
“A lot do science, but some are reading and doing math,” he said. “Every year kids ask ‘are we going to drop the pumpkins this year?’ Yes, of course we are,” he said.
Fifth-grader Andrea Rayas said No Child Left Inside has been a favorite day for her since prekindergarten. She also gets excited about the chance to raise awareness of breast cancer.
“It’s really fun having all this experience in nature,” Rayas said. “We want there to be a cure for breast cancer,” she said, explaining that her grandmother is a survivor of that disease.
“I think the rockets are really cool and I like how the pumpkins showed gravity. We were also making shadows and got to write a theme about what we made.”
Marler led fifth-grade classes in shooting tube rockets. Students leaped on bottles, forcing air through piping to send the rockets soaring.Younger students picked up various sized pumpkins, comparing the weights and examined whether certain items sunk or floated in water.
Spread across a walkway at the rear of the school, Lynda Kemper’s second-graders figured the value of various collections of coins, learning the value of each piece and various methods to come up with the same amount.
Kemper said she takes her students outside twice a day for a short period of time to break up the day and take advantage of the fresh air.
“I’m looking around and I’m not worried about the noise level. I can scope out everyone and see they are working together,” she said. “It’s a little Vitamin C for the soul.”
Looking around, Kemper pointed out the natural beauty around the school, set on 10th Street in Nolanville with a large field on two sides and a garden in front.
“We’re surrounded by land,” she said. “We have insects and critters. We like the fresh air and sunshine and looking around at nature.”