The yard outside Talent Elementary's Outdoor Discovery School buzzed with activity Saturday.

The yard outside Talent Elementary's Outdoor Discovery School buzzed with activity Saturday.

Starting at 9 a.m., volunteers from United Way of Jackson County and parents from the school constructed a new brick patio, linked up the pieces of a playground dome, pulled weeds and sanded new picnic tables.

When the work is all done, the program's 54 students will have a new space to listen to guest lectures and work on assignments outside, which they hope will enhance their curriculum on environmental studies.

"This has been a dream of ours for awhile," said Outdoor Discovery School teacher Erin Mahanay. "This is beyond our reach without outside help."

More than 350 United Way volunteers got to work on 17 such projects across the Rogue Valley Saturday during United Way's 17th annual Day of Caring.

During the day, volunteer teams from local businesses and nonprofits worked on community-improvement projects utilizing a medley of donated materials. This year's projects ranged from painting to landscaping to planting and weeding at several local ACCESS garden sites.

"It's the largest single organization and business volunteering day in the county," said Dee Anne Everson, United Way of Jackson County executive director. "It's just a day to give back, to see how your community really works."

Each year draws 350 to 400 volunteers who work on anywhere from 12 to 18 improvement projects, Everson added.

At the Talent site, officials said a greenhouse will also eventually be installed as a resource to be used in lessons about seeds.

Sandra Tringolo, who has a second-grader who attends the Outdoor Discovery School, saw to a variety of tasks starting at 10 a.m., including weed-pulling and positioning bricks for the patio.

"I really appreciate opportunities like this where I can contribute and be a part of it all," Tringolo said.

Between donated materials and in-kind labor, site coordinator Alice Geankopolis estimated the value of the Outdoor Discovery School's upgrades alone to be more than $2,000.

"You have a beehive of people jumping in and helping out," Geankopolis said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or