In honor of Arbor Day, Plymouth High School sophomore Cameron Riddle will be unveiling a gift to Washington Discovery Academy that he has been working on for the past two years – think of it as an outdoor classroom in the woods. “I have been creating a trail and an outdoor classroom for Washington Discovery Academy with the hope that students will become more interested in nature and the problems we face as a society that involve nature today,” said Riddle.
His gift is much more than a trail. In fact, he’s spent over $3,000 in grants and donations, building an education center, fire pit, and repairing a bridge. In the tradition of Arbor Day, each student will receive a tree to plant, and WDA will be planting a large Sycamore tree on Arbor Day. Riddle said, “I received a grant for $2,100 from Arrowhead Country RC&D.” The organization’s website states they represent ten Northern Indiana counties and their main mission is to supply grants in those counties for programs and projects to benefit the environment and to educate others about nature. Riddle also held two road races that earned over $700 for materials for the trail and classroom.
Sixteen-year-old Riddle has been working with the staff and students at WDA while he’s been crafting the project to fruition. “The students selected the name, “Washington Discovery Trail,” said Riddle. So, that’s what the area will be known as come Friday. “I chose WDA to build this project because the school’s woods offers a lot of natural resources,” said Riddle.
He said he had plenty of help from friends, scouts, and family along his journey of creating this project. NIPSCO donated poles and wire spools. Lowe’s provided materials at a discounted rate. Mulch was provided by North Central Pallets. Signs were made and donated by Steel Warehouse. Trees for students were donated and purchased from the Indiana DNR with Martin’s Supermarket donating bags for the trees. Price Nurseries will help plant the Sycamore tree.
WDA Principal Lauren Cooper said the entire school body will join Riddle as he hands over the new outdoor classroom to the staff and students at Washington Discovery Academy at 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. “WDA is very fortunate to be given such an amazing gift from Cameron. I could have never dreamed that this outdoor learning space could have come to fruition so quickly. The attention to detail and thoughtful planning from Cameron speaks a lot to his character. We are forever grateful to Cameron and the Riddle family,” said Cooper.
Principal Cooper said Riddle shared Arbor Day curriculum with all students at WDA. “He also worked with our WDA Student Voice group who helped to solicit feedback from the entire school body on the name of the trail.”
Riddle has embraced the outdoors ever since he can remember. “I began my scouting in first grade as a Cub Scout, progressed to a Boy Scout, earned my Eagle, and am now currently a Sea Scout. I have learned so much, ranging from nuclear science to living off of the bare minimum in the woods. The Boy Scout organization has something for everyone, and I highly recommend joining,” he said.
He hopes to receive a national Boy Scouts award, the William T. Hornaday Medal, for his work on this project, combined with other projects he has already created throughout his time in the Boy Scouts. After the completion of this project, he has one more project to complete.
Arbor Day is observed nationally each year on the last Friday in April. It is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees and nurture the great outdoors.