June 12, 2014
Thursday was the last day of school in Albemarle County, but it was the first day Walton Middle School students got to use their new outdoor classroom.
The idea for the classroom came from a project-based learning initiative, in which students learn about a subject through hands-on activities. Susan Rigby, a 7th grade science teacher wanted her students to create a project that would be sustainable so future students could use it too.
The class came up with the idea of an outdoor classroom so they could learn first-hand about ecosystems rather than from a text book. On Thursday, during the class's inaugural lesson, they learned how to tell a tree's age by counting rings on logs in their new classroom.
"We get to experience it, instead of looking on our school projectors and everything. We can actually come out here and learn about the logs. It's better than being stuck indoors." 7th grader Randy Woodson said.
The students received a grant from Bama Works to clear a space, cut down trees, build log chairs, a pond, and even an edible garden. The classroom is even complete with multiple picnic tables, and chalk boards.
"There is not a lot of space in the classroom with everybody in it. And now that we’re outside, that gives us a chance to see all the animals that are out here and the plants we could study," said 7th grader Shawn Duncan.
The outdoor classroom is already popular with other teachers as well. Many English and social studies teachers are making lesson plans for next year utilizing the classroom.