CC to begin work on Kiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab
Centralia College continues the next phase of developing the Kiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab (KNOLL) on a site just north of Washington Hall and west of the college’s Science Center, on the west side of Washington St.
KNOLL will serve as an environmental learning lab with representational flora from major climatic regions from around the state and is the next step in the expansion of the college’s original Kiser Garden. Dr. Lisa Carlson, the college’s associate professor of biology, is helping to identify the representational types of plants that will populate the site.
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“We are fortunate to have this land that can serve the college and the community,” said Dr. Jim Walton, college president. The college has retained flora from the original Kiser Garden, which was located where the Science Center now stands.
Work is underway for a foot bridge crossing China Creek that will connect what will become the Eastern Forest with the Alpine Meadow. As the site is developed contractors will reshape the banks of China Creek, which flows through the block. The reshaping will also create a basin, which will become part of a minor flood control area.
Further development of the site will be ongoing; the college does not yet own all properties. KNOLL will grow as property and funds become available.
The outdoor learning lab is named in honor of Rufus Kiser who served for 32 years as the preeminent physical science instructor at Centralia College. His great passion for the flora of the region was evident in his teaching. He gave the college’s forestry program its credibility and reputation for excellence, training hundreds of men and women who went into the forestry profession. Kiser retired from the college in 1973.
The Centralia College Foundation is seeking to raise $500,000 for the KNOLL project. The campaign will help with the engineering of the site, the landscaping and the purchasing of appropriate vegetation.
“The KNOLL will be a scientific learning lab for students and will also serve as a park for visitors,” Walton added. There will be lighted walking paths through the site.
Kiser taught botany, biology, forestry and zoology at Centralia College for 32 years. He started researching the plant species on Seminary Hill, east of the college, in the mid-1930s and continued until his death in 1995. Kiser is credited with discovering during his research that about 80 percent of plant species native to Washington state thrive on the hill. This discovery led to the hill becoming a protected natural area. Kiser was also a leader in scouting and he served in and for the Boy Scouts of America for 75 years.
In addition to teaching, scouting and his love of the outdoors, Kiser was an avid runner and attained status as a world-class long distance runner. Rufus was a two-time “All-American” and five time state champion. As a high school student, he set state records in the mile and 880 yard runs, breaking marks he had previously established. At the 1925 National Interscholastic Track Meet in Chicago, Rufus won the mile and finished third in the 880.
He returned the following year to win both events and claim U.S. championships. He went on to an outstanding collegiate track career at the University of Washington. Rufus’s accomplishments included the 1928 and 1930 NCAA mile national titles, a second place finish in that event in 1929, and the 1929 and 1930 National AAU championships. He was a member of the winning four-mile relay team at the 1930 United States vs. British Empire Games.