Pellissippi State partners with Town of Farragut at outdoor classroom

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Rachael ReevesPellissippi State Community College students in a geology course are working at the town of Farragut’s outdoor classroom to study soil porosity and the hydrologic cycle and to build a rain garden.

“The projects at the outdoor classroom are led by the groups that come here,” said Jason Scott, Farragut’s stormwater engineer. “Pellissippi State has been great to work with. They’re coming in to test the soil, come up with concept plans and follow the whole process of building a garden.”

Sarah Drummond, a Geology adjunct faculty member at Pellissippi State, had her students at the garden in early February to take soil samples and study how quickly water drains from East Tennessee’s clay soil. This month, Drummond hopes her class—in addition to others from Pellissippi State—will be able to plant a rain garden at the site.

“I’ve loved the hands-on experience that the outdoor classroom has given us,” said Rachael Reeves, a student in Drummond’s class. “Sometimes it’s hard to relate what you learn in the classroom to real life, and this class has definitely broken that mold.”

Kathleen Affholter, an associate professor in Geology, travels with her class from Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus to Farragut’s outdoor classroom.

“We’re taking soil samples and testing porosity and permeability, and those tests are more meaningful when the students have collected the soil themselves,” Affholter said. “It’s a great learning experience to have hands-on knowledge of what can be an abstract experiment.”

Affholter is using technology, including a storytelling app called Shadow Puppet, to help her students document their experiments. Landon Lowe and Catherine Metler created a short video in February to show their experiment.

Pellissippi State’s partnership with the town of Farragut began in 2014 with Caroline Erickson, also a Geology adjunct faculty member.

“I was looking for a project that would tie in what students were studying in the classroom with hands-on learning in a setting that would benefit both the students and the community,” Erickson said. “Students will carry out various projects in the demonstration space: they will study the soil’s porosity and permeability and finally install the plants at the outdoor classroom.”

Farragut’s outdoor classroom is located near Farragut High School off Campbell Station Road. With the help of grant funds, the outdoor classroom showcases native plantings, rainwater collection systems and water quality.

For more information about Pellissippi State and its many programs, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.