Malletts Bay School adds new outdoor classroom - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Malletts Bay School adds new outdoor classroom

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The 21st century has brought technology to the classroom, and a lot of it, but in Colchester one school is adding a teaching tool not talked much about anymore, the outdoor classroom.

It's all hands on deck at the Malletts Bay School with machines helping out with the heavy lifting. They're laying the groundwork for the school's new outdoor classroom with granite, slate and soapstone being set in place for student benches.

Eight-year-old Ryan Bevins says the benefits will be many.

"One, you'd get more fresh air. Two, fire drills would be easier. Three, it would be good for us to get in touch with nature," said Bevins.

And that's exactly what he told several dozen University of Vermont students when he and Principal Julie Benay pitched their outdoor classroom project to the school. The UVM students were weighing which projects they would help design and build in the community.

"It's given me a new perspective on what I want to do after I graduate as well, especially environmental education. This has been a very eye opening experience," said Stephanie Rosengarden, a UVM senior.

It's an experience that educators believe will improve learning. Research shows outdoor classrooms can mean gains in learning in science, math, social studies and language arts. They also believe it can help with behavior and social development, positive steps forward outside the digital world we now live in.

"We are also, I think, in one of the most beautiful places in Vermont, with forests and the lake and we want our students to really learn that Vermont tradition of valuing the environment. And kids learn well when they have enough fresh air, when they get a little sunshine. So the goal is to really appreciate the natural world as well as the digital world," said Benay.

The space behind the school and between two wings will be open to all classes through sign ups. It comes with special seating, an outdoor chalkboard, sign posts, bird feeders and a make-shift pond with plants and a decorative bridge.

"Kids get really good ideas when they're surrounded by the sensory images that are full of what it's like to be outside. It's really nice to read outside during quiet reading time. With the chalkboard we can do some math out here, so any of the subject areas really work and this being Vermont, the part of the year that we're going to get to use the classroom is going to be fairly limited, so I think the competition for coming outside will be stiff," said Benay.

So for students at the Malletts Bay School this new outdoor classroom will take them away from their computers and other electronics so prevalent in today's high-tech world where they can learn and grow in the natural world as well.

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