Though it might look like any old gazebo, the wooden structure behind Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy is modeled after the traditional seven-sided Cherokee Council House.
It's designed to be an extension of the school's outdoor learning areas, offering protection from the elements and a place for students to gather and conduct research.
The new council house is the final piece of the vision for organizers who built the school's backyard wetland project. Teachers, students and local officials met beneath sunny skies Monday to dedicate the new space.
"This is almost a once-in-a-lifetime project," said Charles Spencer, a TVA senior adviser who helped with the project.
TVA and the Tennessee Aquarium helped fund the roughly $6,000 build. Officials said it's just a small part of TVA's decade-long $1.5 million investment in area education.
"I'm convinced that once you give faculty and students the tools, there's nothing they can't accomplish," Spencer said.
Principal Becky Coleman said students typically use various outdoor learning spaces two to three times each week. The wetlands project was completed about two years ago, and a solar energy project is now under way.
"We really want to move the learning from the inside out," Coleman said.
But, she said such work wouldn't be possible without support from local businesses.
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith, a former science teacher, said he was impressed with students' interest in science at Calvin Donaldson. And the new shelter will only help foster that excitement, he said.
"What a wonderful space," Smith said. "What a great place to be out of the classroom and get outside."
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6249.