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Piney Grove student returns to Midway for Eagle Scout project
Organized building plant beds, table for robotics
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Nolan Hale an eighth grader at Piney Grove Middle School, recently returned to his old elementary school to build plant beds and a robotics table for the budding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program at Midway Elementary. - photo by Isabel Hughes

Nolan Hale Podcast

SOUTH FORSYTH -- Not everyone has what it takes to become an Eagle Scout — the highest Boy Scout honor a young man can receive, but Nolan Hale is almost there.

Hale, an eighth grader at Piney Grove Middle School, recently returned to his old elementary school to build plant beds and a robotics table for the budding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program at Midway Elementary, and to fulfill a promise he once made.

“When I was in fifth grade, I said that I wanted to do my Eagle Scout project here once I had the chance to,” Hale said. “I kept that promise to myself, and once it was time to start my project, I decided to ask Miss Munroe if there was anything I could help out with.”

With the school working to become STEM certified, Midway’s principal, Jan Munroe, needed two things: more garden beds – Hale noticed the existing ones were still being used from his time there – and a robotics table.

STEM, a national initiative adopted by the Georgia Department of Education that encourages students to excel in the math and science fields, requires schools to follow strict criteria to receive certification.

One of these criterions is for a STEM-certified school to have a robotics club so students can learn and practice coding, build and program robots and gain hands-on engineering and technology experience.

STEM concepts must be pervasive throughout all subjects, with 75-percent school buy-in to the program, according to Libby Romig, Midway’s STEM lab teacher.

While some schools struggle to make STEM applicable to every student, the garden beds will serve as Midway’s uniting factor – the link between STEM and non-STEM subjects.

By creating this outdoor classroom, teachers will be able to make math and science hands-on subjects by giving students access to gardens so they can observe the plant lifecycle, measure the pH of the soil and calculate how many cubic feet of dirt are needed to fill the beds.

Other subjects, too, will be able to take advantage of the outdoor space.

“Our art teacher wants to use it for sketching,” said Romig, STEM lab teacher at the school on Atlanta Highway. “Our music teacher wants to use it because she wants to go out and do the sounds of a garden, and we’re hoping all the other teachers throughout the school use it, as far as tying in with their science lessons.”

Midway hopes for 20 raised garden beds, and Hale’s contribution of three moved the process along.

Teachers understand construction can be time-consuming, which is why they said they don’t expect to be STEM-certified for about two years.

Though it only took Hale and his team a day to actually build the beds and the table, it was the process leading up to the building day that was most laborious.

“It took about two months of planning, but [day-of] it only took about eight hours,” Hale said.

This was, in part, because Hale was aided by parents and fellow Scouts from his troop; they were largely the ones who did the actual building.

Although Hale did help, his main job was to direct and lead the volunteers to demonstrate the leadership qualities Eagle Scouts are expected to possess.

“The whole point is to lead others, to teach leadership skills and to ensure that [Nolan] has those leadership skills,” said Porter Hale, the middle schooler’s father. “He can get involved in doing the physical work as long as he’s managing the work and managing other people.”

Thanks to Hale’s extensive planning, the day ran smoothly, though his father said they learned to appreciate the work the Georgia Department of Transportation does.

“We found that sometimes we make all fun of DOT with a bunch of people standing around, but we had an appreciation for, ‘well, you have to get this done before all these people can work on the next step,’” Porter said. “Since we had a bunch of extra people, they couldn’t get to work until some of the original part was done.”

By mid-afternoon on a Saturday earlier in September, the project was complete.

Hale’s next step is to have his project reviewed by an Eagle board, which will determine whether he is awarded Eagle Scout rank.

Given Hale has demonstrated leadership to an unintended audience – Midway students – he said he feels confident the project was a success.

“It’s so nice when the kids have heard that you did [this,] because we have Boy Scouts here in the school,” Romig said. “When they hear that Nolan is doing [this,] it motivates them to stay in scouting, and they want to be like [Nolan] and give back.”

“You may never realize the impact of what you’ve done,” the school’s principal said. “It’s kind of a legacy you left.”