Ormstown, Quebec –- In September 2020, students started another year of socially distanced school. Kimberly Hardy and Marie-Eve Beaulieu, two teachers at Chateauguay Valley Regional (CVR) High School, saw how hard it was for their students to spend all day in one room and adapt to hybrid learning. They started brainstorming about building an outdoor classroom.
Hardy says CVR High School is on a spacious property, and they loved taking their students outside during class. Still, things quickly got derailed without designated learning spaces to keep things organized, focused and efficient.
“The whole idea was about answering two questions: how can we create a healthier learning experience that also meets social distancing requirements? And how can we create something that supports their learning?”
The conversation between Hardy and Beaulieu blossomed into two spaces on the school’s property that have shelter, fresh air, places to sit and whiteboard at the front of the area. Two grade eight classes created surveys to ask the teachers what they wanted for the outdoor spaces and worked together to create the designs based on their feedback. Hardy said Emmanuelle Nieuwenhof, a local landscape designer, volunteered on the project and turned their drawings into professional mock-ups.
“One of the classrooms back onto the tennis courts, and the other one incorporates a tree for shade, and the seating will be in the slope,” says Hardy. “Every time there’s a new layer added in, different subjects have become involved, and teachers come up with assignments for the kids.”
Hardy says they knew they would need help with funding, so they approached local farmer Justin Nieuwenhof, of Lareleve Holsteins, to nominate the project for the Canada’s Farmers Grow Communities Program. Nieuwenhof has two grandkids who attend CVR, and thought the project was an excellent idea, regardless of the pandemic.
“I think it’s good for kids today. Too much time staring at a computer screen isn’t healthy,” says Nieuwenhof.
CVR High School won one of the 66 Bayer Fund grants. Hardy says several community organizations have already voiced how excited they are to use the classrooms for socially distanced meetings and picnics.
“It was the piece that gave us the boost in the right direction,” says Hardy. “We’d received a couple of donations, but when we received the $2,500, we were assured we could do it, and it spurred us into action.”
The plan is to start breaking ground in Spring 2021, so the structures are ready for the following school year.