Volunteers, donors, community members, and EASD staff will break ground this spring on a new outdoor classroom and science laboratory at the Middle School. The project, spearheaded by the EAMS PTO and sixth-grade science teachers Eryca Card and Steve Fisher, will feature a 12’x20’ storage shed and a 16’x20’ covered pavilion area.
The Kiwanis Outdoor Classroom is a partnership between the Elkhorn Kiwanis, who made a sizeable financial contribution to cover the cost of materials and laboratory equipment, Adams Solar, Wausau Homes, Muzatko Concrete, and several other community partners. Greg and Julia Ingersoll of Wausau Homes will oversee the build itself. Josh Muzatko of Muzatko Concrete will provide a large slab and sidewalk for the structure to stand on to ensure all students have access to the space. In addition, Adams Solar is providing solar panels so students will have access to electricity for their Chromebooks and lab equipment. These businesses will work hand-in-hand with 6th-grade students at each step of the project in line with their PLTW (Project Lead the Way) unit on construction.
“The outdoor classroom and science lab is the first step in the PTO’s planned outdoor learning space for the school,” said EAMS PTO president Katie James. “The building will serve as an educational tool in Green Architecture, storage for outdoor Marsh Life equipment, and allow outdoor microscope use in Life Sciences units.” The idea for enhancing outdoor spaces at the Middle School came about in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff were working hard to encourage outdoor learning, and the PTO saw an opportunity to help. After surveying staff and the student body, a plan for long-term outdoor learning spaces began to take shape.
In addition to landscaping and another pavilion for conventional learning, James says, “we have our sights set on a raised outdoor amphitheater for the music classes to practice outdoors. Our goal is for the kids to be able to spend at least one period a day outdoors, to enjoy learning in a new way.” The PTO also has plans for improved recreation spaces at the Middle School, creating a teenager-friendly playground with swings, volleyball courts, and tables for card playing. Unfortunately, creating a safe, mud-free place for middle schoolers to play will require significant funds. In the meantime, the PTO has added another gaga ball pit for students and upgraded the recess ball collection.
The project’s total cost, paid for through monetary and in-kind donations, is estimated at around $40-50,000. Thanks to our generous community members, outdoor learning at Elkhorn Area Middle School will be a reality for the 2022-23 school year.