Lab starts to rise on hill at E. V. Cain Middle School

By: Loryll Nicolaisen Journal Staff Writer
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E. V. Cain Middle School staff, students and supporters continue to breathe new life into an otherwise overlooked hill on campus. “Where it is, it was just wasted space,” Principal Randy Ittner said of the hill on the south side of campus designated for the school’s Life Lab. Little by little, work continues on the project, spearheaded by Kelly Bennett, a sixth-grade teacher. Work began this summer, and as of now helpers have graded the site, installed five sets of stairs, and installed three retaining walls. The completed project will include a sitting area, landscaping, paths leading up to a greenhouse and planter boxes, offering a hands-on teaching tool for all things scientific. Bennett said this weekend’s goals include finishing retaining walls. Next up are additional grading, the installation of decomposed granite near stairs and the construction of eight planter boxes. “I’d say we’re on track because we can’t plant until spring,” Bennett said. “When we’ll find whether or not we’re behind is in the spring.” When all is said and done, E.V. Cain’s Life Lab project should cost between $15,000 and $20,000. So far, private parties and service clubs have covered roughly $7,000 of the tab, and businesses have donated between $5,000 and $7,000 in materials and labor. Bennett received a $5,000 grant from Pacific Gas & Electric, which is allotted for a greenhouse. She has yet to hear back on three grant applications. “We need somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to see us to the end,” she said. “Right now I think we’re where we need to be, but what will hold us up is money.” Bennett said she and others are on campus most weekends, weather permitting, to keep the work going. A workday is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and all are welcome to help, Bennett said. “An hour or two or whatever, we can figure out how to put you to work,” she said. Bennett is also in the process of creating a plant registry with Earlene Eisley-Freeman of Eisley Nursery. Sometime in the near future, shoppers can take their pick from a list of plants intended for the Life Lab. “When people go in to buy things for their own garden they can sponsor a plant,” Bennett said. Bennett looks forward to the completion of the Life Lab and the potential it holds for students and staff. “It’s something that I think is going to improve our school tremendously and improve the environment,” she said. “I just want to improve the area for the kids, improving the learning opportunities outside of the classroom.” The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at