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Thinking Outside the Classroom

Friday, August 4, 2017

A change of scenery can do a person good, and Team Minerva of Shawmont School started thinking big after they chose to explore ways to make their learning environment more engaging and diverse. The team noticed that students tend to participate less in class and lose focus later in the school day, especially if they don't get recess.  They also noticed that their school has a lot of outdoor space, which presented enticing possibilities for expanding learning beyond the classroom.  With input from  students and teachers, the middle schoolers on the design team generated ideas for prototypes that could serve all grade levels, including a music garden,  an outdoor science lab,  a garden, and murals that would teach younger students to identify local plants and wildlife.  When it came time to figure out what was feasible, the team bumped into some real-world resource constraints.  Not to be deterred, they reworked their ideas to function within the limitations they faced, and they recruited parents, staff, and students to help make their vision a reality.  When all was said and done, the students were able to present their school community with a partial music garden, two murals featuring local wildlife,  and a canopy and outdoor rugs that teachers can use to take class outside.  Ms. Banaszak, the teacher who led the design team, reported "It was a lot of work but was worth it.  It really has been a positive addition."