Rocky Branch Elementary School’s outdoor classroom looks quite different after several local businesses helped beautify it. Construction-equipment company Caterpillar provided 10 volunteers to complete the classroom’s circular flagstone area as part of its annual Day of Caring with United Way NEGA. 

The area also includes a circular plot of artificial turf and four picnic tables. 

Other contributors are as follows:

n Dirt and Rock donated all of the flagstone and pea gravel.

n Forever Lawn gave the school a discount on the artificial turf.

n RBES parents also helped underwrite the artificial turf

n Ten Cate donated the sunshades.

n Walton EMC provided a grant with which to purchase the picnic tables. 

Previously, RBES used the outside space as an art garden, but it had become overgrown with plants. An afterschool leadership group of third, fourth and fifth graders called the Rocket Leaders developed a renovation plan. They received help from the University of Georgia Landscape Design program.

Caterpillar sent over 10 employees, who spent seven hours on the flagpole area. 

Peyton Stallworth, the Caterpillar employee who led the project, explained that he and his colleagues “truly enjoyed” being able to give back. 

“This project was particularly meaningful because we have employees who have children who attend Rocky Branch and an employee’s spouse who teaches there,” Stallworth said. “Knowing our help benefits people we know directly, as well as others in the community, made the project at Rocky Branch an easy choice.”

Ben Hawk, Caterpillar’s Day of Caring leader, said that dozens of Caterpillar Athens facility workers participate in these annual community service efforts. RBES was one of seven community sites where his company provided assistance. 

This year’s projects ranged from developing an outdoor classroom and building benches for walking paths to building a chicken coop for a summer camp. In previous years, the company has sent machinery to sites to help clear out drainage ditches, remove railroad ties for school playgrounds and help with general landscaping.

RBES Principal Laura Mason said that these workers helped model the school’s values: respect, ownership, contribution, kindness, effort, teamwork and solutions.

“Caterpillar provided our students with a real-life example of the difference people can make, simply because they care and want to give back,” she said. “They not only helped RBES but are helping to create the future for our students.” 

Mason added that the space will be fully complete with the addition of some mulch and sun sail shades in the near future.

“Students are already using the space and love being outdoors to learn,” she said. “The work Caterpillar did will have an impact on giving students the opportunity to learn outdoors for many years to come.” 

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