Outdoor classroom taking shape at GCHS
After years of discussions, plans and grant proposals, Glenwood Community High School’s long gestating outdoor classroom took a giant leap forward last week.
The project saw dirt work completed, planting beds installed and concrete poured in two slabs in the high school’s courtyard that will serve as outdoor learning areas for classes as varied as art, science and English.
The outdoor classroom concept is the brainchild of science teacher Betsy Maryott. For over two years Maryott has championed the idea through an endorsement from the school district and applications to a half-dozen grant agencies to secure the funding for the project. Finally seeing all the planning and work come to fruition has her “tickled.”
“It’s exciting to see something start to happen out there,” Maryott said. “It feels great. I think the kids are going to be thrilled to see they actually have a work space out in the courtyard.”
A $10,000 grant from the Monsanto Farmers Grow Rural Education program and over $1,500 in privately raised funds has gone toward this round of work. Much of the work so far was also provided at a discount by area concrete contractor Viner Construction and landscaper 34 Outdoors.
The area will be available for use this fall, Maryott said, but its far from a finished project. She sees the outdoor classroom as a multi-year project which she estimates will take $10,000 to $15,000 more to complete. She is currently writing a grant application for Lowes’ Home Improvement’s Toolbox for Education program and the Glenwood Schools Foundation. The American Dermatologists Association has also expressed interest in funding sun shades over the classroom area.
“We want to be able to use the planting beds and add an experimental garden,” she said. “We do have a weather station that was donated by Pioneer Seed Corn, so we’ll be putting that in. I just think the kids are going to be really excited to see something happen there.”
When completed, Maryott envisions a green-space-meets-classroom-space surrounded by native Iowa plants in a landscape conducive to close interaction between students, teachers and the environment. Her vision for the concrete areas, which are located just outside the high school media center’s windows in the courtyard, could have art classes seeking natural light and sketching of real, living organisms, science classes studying nature and weather, English classes having outdoor lectures or students just enjoying fresh air.
“We’re happy to get the concrete poured, the beds in and mulched and we’re working on plantings for this spring,” she said. “The courtyard space had been pretty much wasted space. I think once teachers see what’s available, they can incorporate this into their own classrooms. I see a lot of kids out there this fall.”