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New classroom gives a breath of fresh air to learning at EMS
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Seventh-grade students solve math problems outdoors at Ebenezer Middle. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Ebenezer Middle School students are spending less time inside their classrooms these days, but that’s not a bad thing.

EMS held a ribbon cutting Thursday officially dedicating the school’s outdoor classroom, an 800-square-foot facility available to all classes in every grade level.

The outdoor classroom is covered by a roof and has six picnic tables where students can sit. Ebenezer Middle’s Parent-Teacher-Student Organization raised more than $11,000 to construct it outside of the eighth-grade hall, between the greenhouse and bus ramp.

“It’s very exciting. The community really came together,” said Thomasina Coile, who served as PTSO president for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

The PTSO sought teachers’ input on a fundraiser for the school. Several ideas were proposed and put up for a faculty vote.

“Everybody wanted the outdoor classroom,” said EMS Principal Amie Dickerson.

“We said, ‘What could we do that could impact the whole school?’” Coile said. “And the teachers came up with this idea. They said, ‘You said think big, so how about an outdoor classroom?’”

The PTSO held a number of fundraisers, including a silent auction of merchandise and gift cards donated by local businesses. Coile also requested and received a $3,000 grant from Lowe’s and a $1,000 grant from Walmart.

Along with all the contributions from businesses, Coile said, the project would not have been possible without a wealth of support from Ebenezer Middle administrators, teachers, parents and students.

“No matter what (fundraising) idea we came up with as a PTSO group, they were always very, very supportive of us doing it,” she said.

Some research has shown outdoor classrooms to be beneficial to students’ learning and development. Benefits could range from building stronger language, problem-solving and communication skills through projects and group activity to developing an interest in science and math through connecting with nature.

While the outdoor classroom might seem a natural fit for hands-on lessons in an environmental science class, for example, every teacher at EMS can sign up to utilize it. On the day of the ribbon cutting, a group of seventh-grade math students had class there.

“It will be used in every different type of curriculum,” Dickerson said.

Construction of the outdoor classroom was completed just prior to the end of last school year, and it has been available since the current school year began. However, the August heat resulted in only a handful of takers.

That has changed as the temperature has become more pleasant, though. EMS school council member Joe Marchese, the construction coordinator, described the outdoor classroom as a “phenomenal” resource for students.

“It’s been booked solid, and will be especially as we get into the fall and the weather is more conducive,” he said. “What could be better than this?”