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2017 July/August First Green
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Patty Jewett Golf Course Provides First Green its First Environmental Learning Lab in Colorado 
by Patrick Gentile CGCS, Golf Division Superintendent, City of Colorado Springs 

On May 8, 2017, one of the oldest golf courses west of the Mississippi became the first golf course in Colorado to host a First Green event.  Patty Jewett Golf Course nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, hosted two 3rd grade classes from Taylor Elementary School, which is located adjacent to the golf course.  The 35 3rd graders marched on to the golf course eager to learn and explore.  The golf course staff waited patiently as the students, most of which were stepping onto a golf course for the first time, were amazed by their surroundings. Patty Jewett staff welcomed the students with open arms.  The team collaborating with me on this event included Golf Course Superintendent, Jeff Wichman, and his staff; PGA Professional, Bill Martin, along with his pro shop co-owner,  Jeff Martin; and the restaurant manager, Michael Head. Additionally, David Phipps, Northwest Field Staff Representative from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, came out for the event and offered excellent support leading up to the event.  His commitment and enthusiasm for the First Green program were contagious.   

First Green is an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs – the only program of its kind in the world. First Green has extensive resources for golf course superintendents, including online lesson planning and facilitating the connections between golf courses and local schools and science/horticulture teachers. We planned the activities for the event with the staff from First Green and third grade teachers from Taylor Elementary School, Natalie Porter and Michele Cheesman. The teachers ultimately decided on Math Lab 1: Measuring and Calculating Areas, which meets the Colorado Academic Standards for third grade.  For the majority of the students, it was the first time they had ever stepped onto a golf course. 

We set up three stations on the putting green and divided the students into three groups.  The first station was the math lab where we plotted out a rectangle for the students to measure with a tape measure. They recorded the measurements to find the area of the rectangle and then we explained why golf superintendents need to know how to find area so we can properly order the correct quantities of supplies for the golf courses.  We also took a core sample out of the green to allow the students to see how a green is constructed.  At the second station, the golf pros taught the students how to line up a putt and gave them a quick lesson before setting them free to putt. The students really enjoyed this.  For the last station, the golf course staff brought up a few mowers and a roller and allowed the students to explore the equipment and watch the roller in action. What kid doesn’t love seeing and sitting on equipment? The staff also put out clippings from a green and fairway and let the students explore the differences in their textures.  

Each of the three experiences was scheduled to last 20 minutes.  We were fortunate to finish all of the stations right on schedule, so we used the extra time to trek to the irrigation lake and pump house. The irrigation lake is a reclaimed water source that was added in 2010 to take some pressure off of the non-potable system at night.  In 2000, the golf course collaborated with Taylor Elementary School to install a sub meter to the system to allow them to use water from the golf course system to irrigate the school and also a newly envisioned park. Without this configuration, the development cost for an irrigation system and cost of water for the park would have been prohibitive, and the park where these students love to play today could not have been built.  We explained where reclaimed water comes from and the conservation benefits of using it.  The day ended back at the clubhouse where our restaurant staff fed the students hot dogs, chips, and sodas.  Snacks are always a highlight of any field trip!  

The event lasted approximately two hours, and the students took away fun memories as evidenced in their “Thank You” notes.  Maliya wrote, “Thank you for allowing us to come over today! I had lots of fun!  It was really fun when we went putting.  Also, I learned a lot about the pump house.  It was a lot of fun learning!  I love the grass that we got to feel and it was really fun!  I like how you guys let us use the tape measure.  I also like how you guys let us roll in the grass while we were waiting.”  The students took away the knowledge that while golf courses provide for an enjoyable recreational activity, they also deliver benefits for the environment. And they learned that if they keep learning science and math skills, one day they could be so lucky as to work at a place just like the math and science lab they visited the day they spent at Patty Jewett Golf Course. I encourage all golf course superintendents to get involved with First Green and open up your golf courses as learning labs to help more students fall in love with STEM learning. 

Contact Gary Leeper at RMGCSA
Voice: 303-255-9611 Fax: 303-458-0002
12011 Tejon St., Ste. 700., Westminster, CO 80234 EMAIL: