Learning this fall is different than ever before. Some students will attend school virtually, many will return to the classroom with masks on and teachers may explore new learning environments such as outdoor spaces.

Over a year ago, Prior Lake teen Colin Glynn started working on his Eagle Scout project — turning Mary’s Garden at St. Michael Catholic School into an outdoor learning space. But when Glynn first started planning his project, he didn’t know how useful the space would come to be.

To earn his Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scout Troop 331, Colin had to first complete a community service project.

“He went to St. Michael’s for first through eighth grade so he always had it in the back of his mind that he’d like to do something at St. Michael’s to give back to the community he went to school at for eight years,” his mother Shannon Glynn said.

Colin spoke with teachers and administration about what the school needed and possible project ideas before settling on sprucing up the existing garden.

With the help of his family, friends, fellow scouts and scout leaders, he pulled many of the plants, replanting some and adding entirely new ones to the garden. He placed stumps for seats, built a bench and rerouted the area’s drainage system to stop water from pooling in the area.

The garden provides an additional educational space for the students and teachers of St. Michael’s amid COVID-19 restrictions, said St. Michael’s fourth grade teacher Deanna Vochoska

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for many of us to take our kids outside and have a nice space for them to sit and learn and for us to teach to them where they’re not having to worry about sitting on the ground. Especially with COVID, it’s going to be a perfect place for us to take our classes and utilize that space more than it had been used in the past,” Vochoska said.

Colin hopes the space is used often and is glad to be able to show his support for the school that had such an impact on his youth.

“I love the teachers there, I love my classmates, so it feels good to be able to pay that back and pay that forward,” he said.

As a mom and a teacher, watching Colin complete his project was a rewarding experience for Shannon.

“Just knowing all the years to come and all the different kids over the years that will be enjoying that space is really just a great feeling,” she said.

Colin is grateful for the support he received from the Prior Lake community that made transforming the garden possible, he said. He received a monetary donation from the Prior Lake Lions Club, tree stumps from Trimmer Trees and rocks from Al Imholte of Ace Hardware.

The time he spent completing the project and his years as a scout also taught him valuable lessons he will take forward in life, Colin said.

“It’s not easy. It gives the scout a great sense of accomplishment but then it also shows other people, colleges, business owners, people that are giving internships, possibly even military recruiters — it gives them a great perspective on what the kid is and what he really values in life like hard work, determination and all the skills that come along with it,” Colin said.

“You’re not only learning basic scout skills, but basic life skills. You’re learning how to cook, you’re learning how to stay physically fit, you’re learning how to tie basic knots, you’re learning how to be aware of people in your community ... It’s just a really good opportunity to let kids grow, that they wouldn’t have in other groups.”

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