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Norwich invites high school students to design outdoor classrooms

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 5:41 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 7:35 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Schools across the state put up tents as outdoor classrooms but with the winter weather, that option is no longer available.

“All of September, all of October, and about mid-November, it started to get a little chilly,” said Greg Schillinger, the principal of Rutland High School.

Rutland High School had three tents. Schillinger says it was a great option for all teachers to use. But having a permanent structure would be a great addition and easier for teachers to plan lessons around.

“Even in the fall, students were willing to throw on an extra layer if they had the opportunity to be outside,” Schillinger said.

So, Norwich University is challenging students across the world to create permanent outdoor learning classrooms.

“They know what it’s like to be taught in a pandemic and so we wanted to respect and acknowledge all of that experience and knowledge that they have gained and offer back to them the opportunity to design a classroom,” said Tolya Stonorov of Norwich University.

Norwich University’s architecture students have been creating community projects like outdoor classrooms for decades, but it’s especially timely during a pandemic.

Students work alone or in groups of up to four and then submit photos of their designs.

The criteria: the design must fit in a 20x20x20-foot box or 400-square feet. It must have a roof and room for nine students and one teacher.

Every submission earns a $2,000 scholarship to Norwich. The winner gets an $8,000 scholarship.

“Definitely something I’m looking to incorporate in it is COVID safety regulations,” said Colbie Miller, a freshman at Milton High School.

Miller is taking part in the challenge because she’s interested in the IT design side of architecture.

A big question-- will her outdoor classroom have a heating element for those winter months? Miller hasn’t decided yet.

“It seems like a next-level fancy thing but if you want to be more connected to nature and stuff and not necessarily have to use electricity,” Miller said.

The competition ends on Dec. 13, so Stonorov says there is still time to apply and to reach out if you need any advice or have questions. Click here for all the details.

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