Farragut girls help build outdoor classroom at Seven Island Park
Farragut area Cadette Girl Scouts Ava Berkheimer and her sister. Ana, from Troop 2034 of Knoxville, recently showed they can use power tools.
The Berkheimers, along with fellow Beaver Creek Service Unit scouts Annabel Dattilo and Jessie Boromei, spent five months finishing a Silver Award project to construct the Hickory Creek Learning Center outdoor classroom for Seven Island State Birding Park in Kodak.
Ava, the 13-year-old daughter of Yarnell Road residents Mark and Nicole Berkheimer, said the girls spent more than 50 hours working on the project.
“I’m super happy at how (the completed project) turned out,” Ava said. “It was such a fun project and to be working with everyone.
“We’re really proud of it,” she added. “We (had) a grand opening on (Saturday,) Jan. 16 ... at Seven Islands.
“After the dedication, the other girls and I (led) the first official class in the new learning space. We are teaching a Girl Scout Animal Habitats badge workshop.”
Ana, 11, also was happy with the outcome, although she conceded she thought the project would be easier.
“I really want to get the word out that girls can use power tools and do a big project like this,” said Nicole, who also is the troop leader.
Ava said the girls decided to do their Silver Award project at Seven Islands State Birding Park in Kodak because they had already been “friends” of the park for a long time.
“One of our scout moms is a ranger there,” Ava said. “We started doing classes and special events there, and we just kept doing them.
Seven Islands needed an outdoor classroom “because they teach a lot of classes for all ages … whenever COVID hit, they didn’t have many outdoor educational areas. They had one area but it wasn’t really permanent,” Ava said.
“We thought that project would be perfect,” she added.
The girls started the project in August 2020 and finished it Sunday. Jan. 3. The project involved constructing 12 5-foot benches and a chalkboard-table combo.
“The table can fold up, and you can see the chalkboard,” Nicole said.
“They harvested logs from the park,” she added.
The logs they used were black locust, which is rot resistant, for the bench supports.
Nicole said Seven Islands wanted it to be environmentally friendly, so instead of cement to anchor the benches, they drilled holes and inserted rebar, a reinforcing steel, in the logs and buried the rebar 6 inches into the ground.
They used metal from the Berkheimers’ roof, which was left over from a re-roofing project, to build the chalkboard.
Their father helped the girls, showing them how to do the work, Nicole said.
Initially, she said the girls were looking at completing two classrooms but were talked out of it. ,
“Thank God, (Mark) talked sense to us,” Nicole said, adding there were some setbacks.
“Ana broke her arm during the project, and Ava broke her pelvis in a horseback riding accident,” but the girls persevered.
“It was a good learning experience that no project is ever going to completely go as initially planned, and you have to adjust your plans to be successful, and they got everything done,” Nicole said.
The Silver Award is the highest award a Cadette Girl Scout, age 11 to 13, can achieve before moving up to the Senior Girl Scout level and working toward a Gold Award, Ava said.