This past school year was undoubtedly tough, but there were a lot of lessons learned, in life and in education.
“COVID has taken away a lot of things from students, but has brought more awareness to the need of being outside and connecting with nature,” MHS Senior Rylie Genest wrote in a recently accepted grant proposal to Friends of Acadia.
The grant, awarded to the MHS Greenhouse Club, was for $10,000 to put toward an outdoor classroom.
“We had been interested in an outdoor classroom for the past two years,” said Greenhouse club advisor Beth Prelgovisk, “but with COVID it evolved into, ‘let’s do a classroom. This is a real need.’”
What started out as a discussion about the possibility of simply adding more Adirondack chairs to the courtyard evolved into a plan for three distinct outdoor learning spaces.
“With all the grants we apply for, we try to involve students in every aspect,” said Mrs. Prelgovisk. “Some students worked on grant writing, others worked on the designs, or researched materials to use.”
The group decided they wanted the materials for the classrooms to be durable, sturdy, and sustainable. They also decided to go with local products as much as they could, both to support local businesses and the Maine economy and to avoid getting hit with shipping fees.
They decided to try out two benches from American Concrete Industries in Bangor and placed them outside of the greenhouse. The spot quickly became popular with the students and Mrs. Prelgovisk says the benches were almost always in use. The Greenhouse club plans to buy 10 in total to incorporate into one of the three classroom designs.
The first site will be an amphitheater style classroom where a handicap accessible stage area will face the 10 concrete benches. The second will be in the current courtyard where they hope to obtain more adirondack chairs and a sail cloth shade awning. The third will be by the three hundred wing where they hope to create a pavilion with several picnic tables.
“We’re very lucky to have received the Acadia grant in its entirety this year,” said Mrs. Prelgovisk. Generally they give half the money the first year and the second half the year after that. “They were so impressed with the details of our plan that they decided to give us the whole thing so we could move forward with it.”
The Friends of Acadia grant will be complemented by two other recently received grants. One for $750 from the Maine Environmental Education Association (which purchased the two concrete benches) and one from Maine Ag in the Classroom for $1000 which helped the group procure a picnic table for the 3rd space.
“Just like the greenhouse was generated with several small student written grants, I think this project will come together in a similar fashion,” said Mrs. Prelgovisk.
Construction on the first outdoor classroom is due to start this summer! We cannot wait to see how it turns out.