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When construction on The Orchard School’s three new natural playgrounds wrapped up last year, teachers and students quickly discovered all of the fun ways to use the new elements. Tree decks became pirate ships, log walks kept kindergarteners safe from lava underneath, and climbing walls helped students summit Mount St. Helens.
Toward the end of the 2020-21 school year, third-grade teacher Debbie Underwood and her students noticed something special about one of the elements during recess. The Early Childhood, Elementary School, and Middle School playgrounds all feature plant-based turfs by SYNLawn. Mrs. Underwood’s students realized that, not only are these fields 100% recyclable and create a lower impact on local landfills, but they’re also perfect for…miniature golf!
Fast forward to the current school year, and Mrs. Underwood partnered with Makerspace Coordinator Scott Weaver and the entire third-grade team to create an epic, 18-hole mini-golf course on the turf right outside of the third-grade classrooms. Traditionally, third-graders are tasked with researching, studying, and explaining the history of The Orchard School during Founders Day celebrations (Oct. 1). Past students have led all-school assemblies complete with pictures, costumes, and semi-original songs and created festival-style walk-throughs of the decades. And now students have added an 18-hole miniature golf course to the list of innovative ideas.
Each hole highlights Orchard history with stories, audio, art pieces, and more. The course features Orchard’s nine founding mothers, the first black student, previous Heads of School, Box Town, mascots, Nature as Teacher, sports teams, and the house at 5050 N. Meridian St. where it all began in 1922.
Third-grade math and science teacher Kelsey Diarra worked hands-on with students to apply real-world math skills like measuring and marking, drawing perpendicular lines, pre-drilling specific diameter holes, and using a hand saw, a jigsaw, a band saw, and a scroll saw. Students included in the design process the ability to build and break down each hole into pieces to enable them to move the course throughout the school.
After nearly a month of construction in the Orchard Makerspace, third-graders gave their parents a special tee time to grab some coffee, play the course, and take a walk down Memory Lane.
Fun Fact: Orchard grad and current dad Bill Van Valer ’90, general manager of Stony Creek Golf Club in Noblesville, provided the putters and the golf balls for The Orchard School’s mini-golf course.