Story by Franz Zeilmann, Caecilia Meier and Simone Peuleke
VILSECK, Germany — On September 14, 2015, Garrison Commander Col. Mark Colbrook “opened the doors” to the new Green Classroom here on Rose Barracks.
Among the guests were mayors from our neighboring towns, representatives of the U.S. and German military, the National Forest Service, the police and the DoDDs schools.
Upon initiative of the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division, an existing green area at Rose Barracks was ecologically upgraded and shaped into a “Green Classroom” with six different habitats and educational boards.
“The Green Classroom is an ideal location to learn about the plants and animals living in this region or to simply relax. With the change of seasons, grown-ups and children can find something new here every time,” Colbrook said.
“Deadwood, stone pile, hedges, meadows, orchard, a naturalized stream and a pond are man-made habitats for a plethora of species,” said Manfred Rieck, chief of the Environmental Division. Rieck went on to thank the many contributors from the National Forest Service, the American schools (Elementary School and High School), the Department of Public Works at Rose Barracks, the US Boy Scouts, and last but not least his motivated team, especially Caecilia Meier and Simone Peuleke, for their great support of the project.
In 2011, the garrison won the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award and received $30,000. Manfred Rieck wanted to use these funds for the benefit of Rose Barracks Military Community and initiated the design and construction of the Green Classroom, a facility for everybody on Rose Barracks. While Tower Barracks has the environmental trail at the Outdoor Recreation Center, there was no facility that could be used for environmental education at Rose Barracks.
During the opening, bee-keeper Reinhold Birner showed his bees to the students and explained the importance of the bees and of bee-keeping for the environment and biodiversity. Manfred Rieck emphasized that honey bees, together with a number of local wild bees, support diversity in nature by pollinating most of the wild and cultured plants and thus enabling them to bear fruit. He also mentioned that the Rose Barracks Green Classroom perfectly complements the “Million Pollinator Garden Initiative” promoted by the U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year. She also maintains her own vegetable and kitchen garden next to the White House.
Alongside the environmental habitat info boards, a historical board informs visitors about the former settlements that existed on the military installation. The inhabitants of the former settlements Gruenwald, Altneuhaus, Kittenberg and Langenbruck were displaced during the enlargement of the military training area by the German Armed Forces in 1938. Today, the American housing areas at Rose Barracks are named after those former settlements and commemorate their existence.
As part of the festive opening, third-grade students from Vilseck Elementary School released helium balloons. Furthermore, the Environmental Club students from Vilseck High School presented the different habitats and their respective inhabitants and engaged the kids in many games and activities pertaining to those.