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Walter and Gladys Hill Public School Launches Outdoor Classroom

It’s project based learning taken to the next level. Over 500 students at Walter and Gladys Hill Public School built an outdoor classroom. Then staff found a way to tie-in curriculum, and students built projects for the beautiful area behind the school.

Opened this June, the classroom is an estimated 30 metres by 22 metres. It is a great example of Fort McMurray Public School District’s emphasis on environmental stewardship. Primary features include gorgeous flower and vegetable beds, a medicine wheel, musical instruments for a sound wall, outdoor kitchen, and much more for different activities.

“We had Kindergarten students working on the outdoor kitchen with help from parents. Grade 1 created and decorated the curious garden featuring Smurfs, and birdhouses. A butterfly garden was created by grade 2. The sound wall came from grade 3, and with help grades 4 to 6 tackled bigger projects like the vine teepee, medicine wheel, and sundial,” explained Annalee Nutter, Principal, Walter and Gladys Hill Public School.

“The music, or art teacher can take students out on a beautiful day. Students can calculate area, or perimeter for Math going around measuring objects. The outdoor kitchen for our ECDP and Kindergarten Reggio kids inspires exploration and creativity. The sound wall has musical instruments to study sound. Students have already enjoyed winter activities like Bannock on a stick with a guest speaker. The whole idea for the space is to take learning outside in all seasons,” Principal Nutter continued.

Initially planned three years ago when the school opened, the classroom was put on hold so a drainage system could be installed underneath. The idea however, was always a priority for Nutter.

“We wanted students to be able to go outside and be in a different space to learn. Sometimes your creativity comes alive more when you are in fresh air - seeing things around you,” she said.

Future projects for the classroom include creating a composting station, which is already being done inside.

“With project based learning students lead so essentially they decide what happens next. When using the space it will spark their creativity and a new plan or innovation. Teachers then support their ideas and tie it into the curriculum they are learning.”

September looks exciting, Nutter, added.

“We can’t wait for September. Many more plants will be out by then; there will be vegetables to harvest, which will be used for our hot lunch program; and we plan to share them with the YMCA next door. There are vines growing on a teepee shape, which will be full by then. Rose and lilac bushes will be grown, and ready to study to see how plants grow and develop. The kids are in for fun surprises,” she continued.

Nutter thanked the many community sponsors and supporters, who made the classroom possible.

“Two years ago Nexen gave us $5000 and then ConocoPhillips gave us a $1000 to start. We couldn’t have done this without them, and our many supporters listed above. Thank you everyone,” Nutter said.

Check out the outdoor classroom grand opening event album here.