The South Whid-bey School Farms program is asking for the community’s help to grow the funds needed to build an outdoor classroom.
The project is coming at a time when outdoor learning is being embraced by South Whidbey Elementary School. Kindergarten classes will be the first to use the outdoor classroom.
School Farms Manager Cary Peterson said the structure will be an open-sided pole barn, similar to “a big picnic shelter.”
“The whole point of an outdoor classroom is airflow,” she said. “We want lots of airflow so kids can be COVID-safe.”
Construction is plotted to begin at the end of September and will take about four to six weeks to be completed, meaning kids could be in the classroom as soon as this fall.
“The goal is if students can return to school and stay safe, then we hope to have it ready,” Peterson said.
Although it is referred to as a classroom, the outdoor space will not have permanent furniture, South Whidbey Elementary School Principal Susie Richards said. Stools or chairs may be brought to the structure and spaced out within its confines of 18 by 32 feet.
Richards said the school district was recently awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center.
The grant will support environmental education and focuses on helping to train teachers at every grade level to effectively provide instruction on the local watershed and the Salish Sea.
The outdoor classroom will be key in furthering that education.
“Today more than ever, our students need to have an understanding of the place that they live in,” Richards said, “and what is their role in helping to care for this beautiful place that we live.”
The community now has the opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation that will fund the construction of the outdoor classroom.
Two companies have already pledged a total of $7,500 in the form of a matching grant. Seattle Seed Co. has pledged $2,500 and Hand in Hand Partners has pledged $5,000.
A total of $15,000 is needed to complete the structure. Peterson said the school district is halfway to its goal of meeting the match.
Donations can be made on the South Whidbey School Farms’ website, whidbeyschoolgardens.wordpress.com/