Eagle Scout project: Davidson student builds outdoor classroom at elementary alma mater

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Hilliard Davidson High School senior Kevin Bray built an outdoor learning area at Norwich Elementary School, his elementary alma mater, for his Eagle Scout project.

It has been seven years since Hilliard Davidson High School senior Kevin Bray walked out the doors at Norwich Elementary School for the last time as a student there.

But the school was on his mind earlier this year when he reached out to the building’s principal to suggest an idea that should benefit its students for many years to come.

This fall, students at the Norwich building on the Britton-Norwich Learning Campus off Britton Parkway have enjoyed the opportunity to have classes outdoors at four 6-by-6-foot tables on a 30-by-30-foot gravel bed.

“Our kids have raved about it," said Michael Heitzman, principal of the Norwich building. "It is the highlight of their day to be in fresh air and learning at the same time."

Heitzman was principal while Bray was a student at the school.

The project is expected to earn Bray, a member of Troop 814 of the Boy Scouts of America, the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank an active Scout can obtain, at a board of review in December.

In early March, before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic closed school buildings for the rest of the academic year, Bray called Heitzman to suggest a project to build several picnic tables outside the Norwich building.

At the time, the project was considered to include several ordinary tables at various locations, but after the school buildings were closed, Bray said, he and Heitzman reconsidered the project.

“We thought about how we could use the tables in a way to make an outdoor classroom,” Bray said.

The pandemic delayed the project, but during the spring and summer, Bray worked on several designs and concepts.

With the full funding of $3,500 from the Norwich Elementary School PTO, Bray purchased material and supplies from Menards, and the project began July 26.

The tables, including umbrellas for shade, are constructed of recycled plastic and will not require any maintenance.

Over the course of 12 days, Bray, Scouts who agreed to assist him with the project and others worked to assemble the tables and build a gravel pit, relocating 13,000 pounds of gravel from a pile in the parking lot into the gravel bed.

Bray estimates 36 hours of labor, including 250 man-hours, were invested in the project.

Hilliard Davidson High School senior Kevin Bray (left) built an outdoor learning area at Norwich Elementary School, his elementary alma mater, for his Eagle Scout project. Bray worked with principal Michael Heitzman to plan the project.

“COVID kind of fueled the project," Heitzman said. "It gave the project some momentum and purpose."

The tables will continue to be used during the winter whenever moderate weather allows, Heitzman said.

Amy Bidlack, who served as president of the Norwich PTO for the 2019-20 academic year, said the PTO was excited to support Bray with his Eagle Scout project.

“This outdoor learning space which he constructed is a terrific addition to the Britton-Norwich Learning Campus," she said. "The best part is that his outstanding work will have a positive impact on his former elementary school community for years to come."

Bray is the son of Scott and Barb Bray, who have three other children: Keith, Colin and Caitlin.

Bray’s oldest brother, Keith, is an Eagle Scout.

“I joined scouting because of (Keith), and I want to follow in his footsteps (as an Eagle Scout),” Bray said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo