Outdoor Learning Space Brings New Dimension to Learning

SHS senior Birch Swart initiates outdoor learning space in courtyard

Photo+Courtesy+of+Lauren+Montgomery
Photo Courtesy of Lauren Montgomery

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Montgomery

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Montgomery

Abbey Johnston, Staff Writer

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Scituate High School is taking on a new way of learning while also helping the environment. The Scituate High School courtyard (located between the Performing Arts Center back entrance and the English and science hallways) is currently in the process of becoming an outdoor learning space with the help from both the administration as well as students.

Last year, Birch Swart, currently a senior at SHS, came up with the idea of the outdoor learning space for a project for his Honors Environmental Science class. When he realized the learning space didn’t fit the criteria of the project, he decided to take on the challenge himself. Swart said that he wanted “to create a sustainable outdoor learning environment so students could enjoy the outdoors while being instructed.”

As soon as Swart came up with the idea, he took it to the SHS administration to get the project approved. After three months of planning and organizing, the space was finally passed with the full support from administration. Swart pointed out that Principal Wargo has been especially helpful, saying that “he has provided so many chances and opportunities and has been going with the flow.”  Wargo even helped create the garden beds.

Jenkins Elementary school has experience with their own outdoor learning space, and the impact of the space has been phenomenal on the school. Jenkins Elementary School Principal Jennifer Arnold stated,“When you have an outdoor learning space and when you watch our students in the outdoor learning space you see the joy in their faces that educators want for all students.” The learning space was originally put in at Jenkins for a third grade science class, but quickly expanded and is now used for the whole school to enjoy. Arnold also adds that it creates an “authentic learning experience helps with student engagement” and is also beneficial for the teachers as it gives them the “opportunity to expand their teaching practice.”

 

At Scituate High, the new outdoor learning space will not only be used for the classroom, but it will also be used for the school as a whole. The new learning space will have a garden in which produce that is grown in the garden will be used in the school cafeteria. Swart also hopes that the outdoor learning space will “allow students to be more involved with nature, give the school the reputation of a green school and be more environmentally friendly overall.”

Studies have shown that outdoor learning spaces improve physical, cognitive, and psychological health, and create a better understanding of the material that is being taught. Scituate High School is taking new progressive steps not only to improve student learning, but their overall health as well. Swart, as well as other students who have been working on the project, Katie Milligan, Matt Fishman, Riley Hay, and Molly Sullivan, are all looking forward to seeing their hard work come together to benefit the school. Senior Molly Sullivan stated that the crew was “coming together in the name of friendship” and is proud of Swart as well–as the school–for taking this new step.

The outdoor learning space volunteers are always looking for help, whether it be in or out of school. If interested, students should contact Birch Swart at [email protected].

 

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