Outdoor classroom breaks ground

When some schools have more students than space will allow, they just say “to hell with it” and pack more kids into the classroom. Others erect new buildings, add on, or bring in portables.

But a Tiburon elementary school is trying something different.  They’re taking a conventional route in adding another classroom.  But what’s unexpected is where they’re building it:  al fresco.

Bel Aire Elementary broke ground on the project yesterday.  The plans feature an open-air classroom complete with tables and chairs, as well as a walking path that will be used to resolve conflicts between students.

Interestingly, the school district isn’t even the one paying for it.  In a time when the country is obsessed with a perceived scarcity of money, it’s not common to see a community step up and pay for this kind of project on its own.  And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Partners in the project include the district’s PTA, the Belvedere Community Foundation, and the owners of Tiburon Lodge, and MetWest Hospitality.  Two parents with children in the district are providing free construction and landscaping services.

Parents and school administrators are pleased that they found such a great solution to the overflow issue, especially since it means that students will spend more time outside.

But outdoor learning isn’t just a great way to make room for more students.  According to research, the model has also been shown to increase students’ test scores in several areas. But that’s not even the coolest part.  The plans for the project have been conceptualized by drawings submitted by a spectacular imagineering team:  the Bel Aire students themselves.

Bel Aire Elementary Principal Patti Purcell proudly gave them all the credit:

“These boys and girls, they dreamed big.  They dreamed really big.”