Tanner Dowless installs an Eagle Scout project recognition plaque to the teaching kiosk. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath Elementary students will likely be spending more time outside this academic year and into the future with an addition to the school’s enclosed courtyard.

Tanner Dowless, an Eagle Scout candidate with Boy Scout Troop 161 in Philomath, spent Saturday with his crew of volunteers putting up an outdoor teaching kiosk.

“It has a whiteboard in the center … and you can use both sides of it,” Dowless said while taking a short break from the work. “It’s going to have outdoor seating for 25 students so the teacher will be able to stand out of the rain or sun and then the students will have cover where they’ll be able to sit.”

In addition to the Eagle Scout project, the elementary school recently celebrated the addition of a mural and working garden. For more on those projects, see the Three Things column to be published Sept. 23.

Dowless said the outdoor classroom could potentially be used in different ways, such as various types of science projects.

“It’s basically an outdoor learning facility and will keep them out of the weather for whatever they’re doing,” he said.

Dowless has progressed through the Philomath school system from preschool and once scampered about the hallways of the elementary school. Thinking back, he believes it was the third grade when he was introduced to Boys Scouts of America.

“I got into it with a few friends in elementary school and out of the four of us that got started in Cub Scouts, there’s three of us that have gotten all the way to almost achieving Eagle rank,” Dowless said. “I started in Cub Scouts and moved along through there and it was after the fifth grade when I crossed over into Boy Scouts and made some pretty good friends through the program.”

Thomas Smith and Owen Thomas are the two other Eagle Scout candidates from Troop 161 that progressed through the ranks with Dowless. All three are seniors at Philomath High School.

“From the sixth grade all the way until current, I’ve been doing all kinds of various activities, helping with everyone else’s Eagle projects that’s gone through the troop and I have a few Eagle Scouts that have been here helping with me today,” he said. “It’s a community thing — we all know each other, we’re all friends, we all help out when we can.”

Jay Barrett works on the roof of the teaching kiosk. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The crew helping Dowless Saturday included those individuals connected through the scouts along with friends and family. Jay Barrett of Jay B Construction was also on site with his expertise.

“Jace Barrett is a former Eagle Scout of the troop and his dad is definitely one of our greatest resources when it comes to doing Eagle Scout projects because he’s just got the knowledge,” Dowless said.

Dowless said he talked to different people in the community, including former Cub Scout leader Eric Niemann and elementary school teacher Byron Holroyd, about ideas for possible projects. Dowless eventually connected with Lauren Tobey at Oregon State University, who is associated with the Food Hero campaign. The wheels were in motion for the creation of a working school garden in the courtyard where students could benefit through hands-on learning.

From there, the teaching kiosk idea developed as a part of the school’s “garden learning center.”

“I figured this would be a good, easy project that’ll influence all of Philomath Elementary School kids who go through here for the next however many years it’s standing,” he said.

Tanner Dowless poses for a photo Saturday at the kiosk. (Photo provided by Kerri Dowless)

Dowless has an uncle who earned Eagle Scout status and his dad, Carl Dowless, volunteers as assistant scoutmaster.

“This is one of two things that I need to finish,” Dowless said. “Once this is done, I just have an Eagle board review, which is just a pretty intense meeting with the officials of my troop and of the Oregon Trail Council to assess my time in Boy Scouts and then ask questions just to see my knowledge of Boy Scouts and anything I’ve learned or recommendations to make it better.”

Dowless did mention that he also needs to finish the requirements to earn a new citizenship and society merit badge introduced this year.

Working his way up to Eagle Scout status is an exceptional accomplishment that requires commitment and Dowless recommends the experience.

“It definitely takes a lot of hard work to be willing to set aside the time for the meeting once a week and all of the outings … we go on weekend outings once a month,” he said. “But it’s all definitely fun and it’s something that I would recommend for anybody that’s wanting to just have something to do that’s really fun. We do whitewater rafting, snow caving, we do all kinds of backpacking, everything you can think of … we’ve done some pretty cool stuff.”

Boy Scout Troop 161 will likely hold a Court of Honor ceremony sometime next year for Dowless, Smith and Thomas.

Said Dowless, “We’ll have a trifecta.”

Tanner Dowless and his crew pose for a photo in front of the outdoor teaching kiosk that was put up Saturday at Philomath Elementary. (Photo provided by Kerri Dowless)

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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