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Chassell students go outside to learn
May is often a time of year when students can't wait to journey outside the walls of the school and spend time outdoors. In Chassell, the wait has gotten a little easier, with the advent of an outdoor classroom.

The outdoor classroom was completed as part of a grant from the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative. The grant awarded funds for book club meetings, planning sessions and a community event.

Mary Markham, Richard Chiochios and Mark Ware read Moving the Classroom Outdoors and Schoolyard Enhanced Learning, by Herb Broda, and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, as part of their book club. These three books provided inspiration for the idea of an outdoor classroom- a place for students to sit and learn in the natural environment.

They were also assisted in their planning sessions by Jessica Chiochios, who has some expertise in the field herself, having a degree in Environmental Recreation and Education, and experience in working for the Ottawa National Forest Service in Sylvania Wilderness.

Throughout the year, teachers cleared a site just a few minutes from the school that would be aesthetically pleasing to students. Nature Skills students implemented the Leave No Trace wilderness ethic to clear a path to the outdoor classroom. When things warmed up in May, Mary, Richard and Mark took a day to cut and move the logs to the site. These logs were crafted into benches and a podium which make up the outdoor classroom. Shade is provided in part by a very old white pine.

The project culminated with a community event that was held Thursday, May 25th. Students and families were not only invited to visit the outdoor classroom, but also to make and decorate over 40 concrete stepping stones at various crafting stations. There were also vegetable seedlings available for donation which will help fund the green house project.

The students seemed pleased.

“It’s a great place to take a classroom, mainly because it is a change in scenery,” said John Dorvinen, a Nature Skills student.”You can just listen and relax, and sometimes that is what a class needs after being in a room and having to sit at a desk all day.”

The outdoor classroom is meant to evolve over the next few years. Teachers and students will work together to infuse the area with a more productive habitat for both wildlife and learning as they explore the principles of stewardship.

By Mark Ware, Chassell High School English teacher
May 29, 2013 Daily Mining Gazette
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