Laurie Gillum, our twenty-plus-year science teacher at King’s Gate Christian School, celebrates the gift of a $7000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Ms. Laurie has been writing grants for the past three years to obtain funding for maintaining and expanding our Outdoor Classroom.
Contributions have helped create our beautiful Outdoor Classroom, known as the Wonderground. Our existing Wonderground’s Phase I includes a pollinator garden, observation deck, and a vernal pond.
In 2018, Ms. Laurie invited a biologist and wetland specialist to observe our Wonderground and wetland habitats to discuss a potential expansion for Phase II. This phase would extend west beyond the creek and include walking trails, a bird blind, an animal tracking station, and a native prairie habitat. Encouraged by their visit, Ms. Laurie submitted an additional grant proposal which was awarded in early 2021.
We are incredibly blessed by Laurie Gillum’s expertise and passion for sharing God’s creation with students and their families. A degreed research wildlife biologist, Ms. Laurie came to teach at King’s Gate Christian School in 1999. “My passion is biology and conservation biology specifically,” she said. She has written and taught citizen science curriculum to all ages at the school, and now focuses on preschool through fifth grade, teaching our students how to collect and analyze data that will protect and benefit native wildlife habitats in our community. Ms. Laurie also has created a Natural History Museum in her indoor classroom and encourages students to bring in specimens ranging from exoskeletons to geodes, as long as they label them and share their information with the class.
Our students spend science outside whenever the weather permits. One of Ms. Laurie’s favorite spots is the pollinator garden, where over 41 species of pollinators have been identified. Here she spends time with students, teaching them how to gather scientific information to contribute to pre-existing databases. This data collection primarily focuses on conservation-minded stewardship. Her goal is to engage students of all ages in the protection and enhancement of habitats valuable to not only our native local species but also contributing to larger databases for species protection all over the world.
During this spring, summer, and fall, Ms. Laurie hopes to lead our students in a swab-catching exercise. In recent years, scientists have identified a fungus that is killing amphibians all over the world. In this study, she hopes that students will help her capture native frogs and toads living in our vernal pond and adjacent wetland habitats, swab them and send the samples to the international database.
King’s Gate Christian School has also participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count event. For 2-3 days in February, Ms. Laurie guides students and their families in a winter bird count in our Wonderground area. The data is sent to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s international database. Unfortunately, the record-breaking temperatures and snow prevented us from participating this year.
We are grateful to you, our supporters, for helping us create a unique outdoor classroom. Ms. Laurie spends countless hours keeping our Wonderground clean and safe for many native species of plants, pollinators, and many other groups of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Our students get hands-on learning about God’s amazing creation. “I feel so blessed to have a unique science program that gives students opportunities to experience citizen science and conservation stewardship throughout the school year,” Ms. Laurie said. Thank you for seeing and supporting our vision of experiential learning from a biblical worldview. As students fall in love with creation, they fall in love with the Creator.