A new outdoor classroom will make the world their oyster for students at Lax Kxeen Elementary School with the construction of a recently built covered structure for education in the open.
The $81,820 cost of the School District 52 Outdoor Classroom Project was met with the Port of Prince Rupert Community Investment Fund contributing $40, 320. The outdoor gazebo was built over the summer of 2022 directly beside the accessible playground and opened on Oct. 31.
“The sheltered space encourages students and educators to take their lessons outside, where they can experience their surroundings in a unique, safe and accessible environment, and provides a new place for local daycares and other community groups to meet for outdoor activities, rain or shine,” the Prince Rupert Port Authority stated in a Nov. 30 press release.
Located near the gymnasium, the space adds protection from the elements, close proximity to washrooms and can be used by community groups with permission.
The 20 ft x 20 ft pavilion-like steel structure features a skylight and rubber flooring extended from the playground for all ability levels.
Lax Kxeen Elementary School Principal, Tanya Murray, told The Northern View the outdoor classroom is being completed in two phases, with the second stage about to be started. Phase One, for the grant writing and actual construction, will be followed by the acquisition of elements making it a classroom.
“We’re looking at portable tables, portable chairs, portable whiteboards, and portable anything that we can bring outside to make it into a classroom is what we’re looking at now,” she said, adding they are hoping for a musical wall, mud kitchen and anything that can encourage more outdoor play and learning.
Murray said the outdoor concept will allow students to “just be kids” making mud pies, letting their hands squish, play and just get dirty.
“So they let their imaginations go. So there is not so much reliance on the technology side of things but going back again to the natural roots,” the principal said.
“I think this is just another level of experience we can provide for students because we know that not all students function 100 per cent in a classroom. They thrive in the outdoors. So we’re trying to give as many of our kids that experience where they’re going to thrive and be successful.”
Murray said she has already seen the area get great use from the community with daycare use, parents using it, as well as outdoor classes in the warmer weather.
“It’s nice to have a spot that’s like community open plus school use as well,” she said.
While there are different projects being embarked upon at other schools, the outdoor classroom at Lax Kxeen is a first for School District 52 and will hopefully be a fully functioning classroom by fall of 2023.
“This addition enriches the outdoor space well beyond school hours and deepens our connections by bringing our community to our school, all the time, which is something we strive for,” Andrew Samoil, superintendent of SD52.
“The outdoor classroom project is a testament to the immense creativity and passion of the educators and staff at Lax Kxeen Elementary School who helped develop and champion this concept, to further expand the opportunities available to their students,” said Shaun Stevenson, PRPA president and CEO, said.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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