Students propose outdoor classroom

By Michael S. Hoey


Students at Delavan-Darien High School proposed the creation of a new outdoor classroom at the school to the School Board on June 10.

The students presented a thorough plan and the proposal appeared well received by the board.

Ethan Kraayeveld, Joshua Brown and Ruby Hernandez-Torres made the presentation. They were all part of Christina Alonzo’s AP Stats class.

According to the students, an outdoor learning environment is vital at any school because it can increase scientific knowledge and connection to nature, it improves dietary habits and overall health, and it strengthens social ties and a sense of belonging. Outdoor classrooms can reduce stress levels and improve mental well-being, create engagement with nature, and increase physical activity.

Curriculum could include engagement in hands-on activities with plant biology and ecology, application of math concepts like measurements and geometry, and developing communication skills through writing journal entries or researching and presenting information about a topic. It could also enhance history, art, and woods curriculum by exploring the historical significance of agriculture and its impact on civilization, expressing creativity in various ways, and applying woodworking skills to construct raised beds, benches, and other garden structures.

Tangible benefits the students listed included better test scores, a place for unstructured play that promotes creativity and problem-solving skills, higher grade point averages, decreased behavioral problems, and fewer symptoms of ADHD.

The students proposed several uses for the outdoor classroom. The school’s highest attending advisory class could be allowed to meet there, teachers could motivate students with the promise of outdoor classes, classes could expand their knowledge with greenhouse or landscape design classes.

The students identified a couple courtyards at the high school that could be converted to an outdoor classroom and they presented design options for each space. They also acknowledged that activity in an outdoor classroom could be distracting to classes inside the building and proposed some potential solutions to mitigate that possibility.

In addition, the students had a plan for maintaining the space and provided a resource/cost list for what would be needed to make it a reality. All of the information presented was backed up with source material.

Board member Kevin Hermann had a few questions but did say he thought it was a great idea. President Dave Henriott said he loved the idea. He said schools are always wondering how to get students more involved and this idea could get several classes involved.

“It opens the door to many uses,” he said.

Henriott also said there were several local businesses that might be willing to step up and donate things to get it going.

Chief Operating Officer Anthony Klein said it is great any time students volunteer to help beautify a school and he commended the students for successfully presenting their plan to a large group. Klein said staff would put something together for the board to discuss and potentially vote on in July or August.

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