By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Washington Elementary parents, staff, and a Leadership Marshfield group are working to bring an outdoor learning center to the school.
The plan is to implement features such as outdoor seating areas, a number of gardens, a food plot, a bird feeder, and several tables on which project work could be completed. These features would create new spaces and opportunities for students to learn outside. The ability to simply have class outdoors is also a driving force behind the project. An additional security camera, a storage shed, and fencing for the area are also part of the plans.
The sanctuary would be built between wings A and B of the school, spanning an area of about 5,600 square feet, which is currently occupied only by grass, said Washington Elementary Principal Peg Geegan in a presentation to the Marshfield School Board’s Facilities, Safety, and Transportation Committee on Thursday night. A small amphitheater is also in the plans, which Geegan said could be used as a space for a lesson, outdoor music class, or “any number of activities.”
Of an estimated $28,000 needed for the project, $20,000 has already been raised by Washington’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
“This is a project that our PTO is completely funding, so we’re not looking for any district funding at this point for that,” Geegan said. She later added, “The PTO is also committing to funding any maintenance costs for the project.”
To raise the remaining needed funds, Washington will look to an initiative called Knowledge Quest, which Geegan described as an “academic contest” where students get family and friends to pledge a certain amount of money based on how well they perform on a year-end assessment. Geegan said the program raised about $8,600 last year and has helped raise most of the $20,000 thus far for the outdoor learning center.
“What we’d like to do is to create an outdoor learning center whereby we can have students and classrooms, go out there and do science experiments and observations and any number of activities that connect the kids more to natural learning than they can get inside the classroom,” Geegan said.
Geegan noted that up to three classes could use the space at one time. Schalow’s Nursery has developed renderings for the site and would do the hardscape work on the project, Geegan said.
Geegan said the goal is for the outdoor learning center to be ready for use by fall of 2016.