Summit Environmental School

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Summit Environmental School weaves environmentalism throughout their curriculum and prides themselves on practicing what they preach. So, when Wendy Fechner, a teacher at Summit, noticed that water from the school roof and parking lot was flowing directly into French Lake, she knew something had to be done.

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For years, rain and melting snow easily traveled from the roof and parking lot, down the previous driveway entrance, and emptied directly into French Lake. School leaders took a huge first step, and completely changed the entrance area to avoid having runoff from the property, flow into the backwaters of the Mississippi River, which sits just feet from the school.

"At the time, my son was working on a rain garden project for science class, and my husband was designing rain gardens for work," said teacher, Wendy Fechner. "The lightbulb went off in my head, and I proposed the idea to our principal and Environmental Education Steering Committee. Everyone was instantly on board."

Installation of the rain garden was a collaborative effort between students, staff, and local professionals. Students at Summit had the opportunity to work with Winona Nursery on the design, construction, and plant selection for the garden.

Maintenance of the garden is also another way students are getting a hands-on education in agriculture by identifying different plant species while pulling weeds and laying mulch.

"Our students, staff, and families just love this rain garden," says Wendy. "I hope that all students that graduate from Summit Environmental School understand the interrelationships among natural systems and people. They can be problem solvers by identifying environmental problems and taking action!"


A driving force in Summits curriculum is to connect and engage students in the world around them. Students are taught to understand water quality and conservation through a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Summit Environmental School has multiple outdoor learning areas:

  • Rain Gardens
  • Raised garden beds
  • Butterfly gardens
  • School forrest observation deck
  • Weather station
  • Recreational trails
  • Frog pond
  • Outdoor classrooms
  • Nature Playscape
  • Solar panels (coming soon!)

"I love when my kindergartners see 'outdoor classroom' on the schedule and they cheer in excitement knowing they get to spend time in nature," exclaims Wendy. "At Summit, we connect, explore, and engage our students in the world around them."

Summit Environmental School In the News