Mollala High’s Friendship Courtyard Inspires Amid COVID-19

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Mollala High’s Friendship Courtyard Inspires Amid COVID-19_sneakers on green grass

While the COVID-19 situation can feel overwhelming at times, we encourage our members to focus on the inspiring stories of those out there making a difference.

OnPoint was founded in 1932 by 16 schoolteachers, and we know how proud they would be today of the educators going above and beyond, conducting online classes, supporting parents in homeschooling and staying engaged with the needs of their students and community.

We remain committed to continuing the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education awards as we manage the COVID-19 situation, because honoring projects like Molalla High School’s Friendship Courtyard will be needed more than ever when school eventually resumes.

Lush green spaces for gathering or window-gazing were hard to come by at Mollala High School until Dr. Sara Bean became associate principal.

“Students might look out their window to see a strip of concrete or a small grass patch, and the courtyard had been neglected,” said Dr. Bean. “We needed a beautiful and inclusive space for all students to be able to gather and feel a sense of belonging.”

From that concept, the Friendship Courtyard project was born. With students involved in designing and building the space, they created patio tables and covered structures, added plants and irrigation and created signage to display themes of inclusiveness, kindness and community.

Resources for these types of projects are not typically available in a school’s budget, so Molalla High School applied for OnPoint’s Community Builder award last year. As one of the five schools awarded, they received $1,000 to purchase materials for the project. With an additional donation of plants from a nearby nursery, the project was off and running.

From students in the Culture Club, who are focused on horticulture, to students in the alternative schooling program, the new garden required a wide range of volunteers.

“We had really positive experiences out in the sun and rain,” said Dr. Bean. “It was such a mixed group of people digging, shoveling, learning and working together. When it was all done, we made sure every student knew their work would have a lasting impact on the school.”

It’s been a year since Molalla High School won the Community Builder award, and before the school’s recent closure, students in metal and woodworking classes were finishing up benches and tables for the patio, and even installing a basketball hoop.

These are not merely cosmetic changes. Research says the quality of a school’s facilities influences student achievement and teacher effectiveness. While the Molalla High School community may not be able to use the space at this time, we are sure the Friendship Courtyard will be a much-needed source of pride for the students when school returns to session.

“When they walk through those doors to something beautiful, it makes a difference. Our students can feel they have a claim or stake in the space. They know now they have a responsibility for caring for it,” said Bean.

It’s projects like Friendship Courtyard that inspire OnPoint today. We look forward to honoring a new group of outstanding teachers and schools in May. The nomination period ends on April 14. Click here to nominate an individual or special project and learn more about the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education.

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