Ken George introduces outdoor classroom to FHC’s campus
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Kenneth George, notorious for ample change and creative ideas within his classroom, has brought the ideas outside the classroom. Specifically, an outdoor classroom.
George, spending summers researching ways to make students feel more welcome and comfortable in a learning environment, came across the idea for an outdoor classroom looking into the empty courtyard outside his doorway.
“Just something about kids and wanting to be outside, I don’t even care if it’s math,” George said. “We walk in this building at 7:15, and you’re in. You don’t see the light, for my classroom at least, we don’t have windows, so the idea that you’re outside just feels more real to me.”
After setting his mind on the concept, he talked to principal Steve Passinault about what it would take for the classroom to be put together, and if George could organize everything, would they be able to do it.
“I love it when teachers get creative and think of ways that will ultimately help students learn,” Passinault said. “Students are more engaged in their learning when the content is made relevant to them. I believe that the outdoor classroom helps do this.”
After writing a grant and having his idea hosted at the gala for patrons to donate, he had enough to turn it into a reality.
He searched for benches online that would be the best to hold class with outside and came upon a sort of bench-table combo that a local teacher had bought and tried out. The review sufficed, and he ordered thirteen of them.
Two students per bench, table-seat style, they’ll be perfect for FHC’s average class size.
Once the weather turns, George plans on putting them together, arranging them outside, and making the area a little more beautiful. Add plants and flowers, make it a student project to create the outdoor classroom they would like to be in.
“I am excited to see how teachers use the classroom furniture and setting to give students an authentic learning experience,” Passinault said.
Junior Madeline Becker, who was involved in history teacher Brad Anderson’s outdoor learning activities, finds the alternative take on teaching and learning to be exceptionally beneficial to students.
“Outside, you’re actually doing something and involved,” Madeline said. “I feel that since we don’t have many outdoor classes, people aren’t going outside as much unless you’re involved with sports because when we get home we have a ton of homework, so then [the outdoor classroom] just gives us more time to be outside and be with nature, experience other things than sitting at home watching TV. It forces you to go outside and be interactive.”
George hopes the outdoor classroom will run like the computer labs and lecture hall. If a teacher wants to use it, they can sign up on a Google Form or something similar to check out the area for that hour.
“I almost don’t care what subject;” George said, “math, science, or you’re writing poetry under a tree, I think something about being outside will make it unique and different for the kids.”