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Woodsdale Community Appreciating Outdoor Classroom

The new outdoor classroom at Woodsdale Elementary School is seeing use both during the school day and by the public when school is not in session.

WHEELING – A new outdoor classroom at Woodsdale Elementary School provides students a place to do reading, math and science outside.

But something else is happening there, according to principal Ashley Minch.

“With this hot weather and this being a shady spot, it’s a nice addition,” she said. “It has become a place for talking. The kids are sitting here at recess and talking to each other and learning social skills.”

The outdoor classroom is intended to be a place for science, technology, engineering and math activities, Minch said.

“Or it can be a place for them to just go out and read a book and be outside,” she said.

The public is also starting to come enjoy the outdoor classroom, which is essentially a park pavilion with four square picnic tables placed underneath.

Minch said last weekend she spotted a family having a picnic at the spot.

The outdoor classroom is the second phase of a three-phase project to revamp the exterior landscape at Woodsdale School, with the first phase involving placement of playground equipment and fencing around the property.

The playground will next get a new coat of asphalt, and volunteers are planning to paint a depiction of the solar system on the asphalt underneath the outdoor classroom.

Examples of celestial constellations also will be placed on the ceiling of the pavilion.

Minch said solar panels also could be put atop the structure, and energy produced could power lighting and ceiling fans that also would be installed.

This would give students the opportunity to observe renewable energy production first-hand, she said.

The Woodsdale Parent Teacher Organization has raised about $350,000 for all the playground improvements, with the AEP Foundation providing a $15,000 grant for the outdoor classroom, said Minch and PTO member Kathleen Wack. Efforts began about three years ago.

“We hope for it to be a hub for the community,” Wack said. “It’s been a true community effort, with the city, school, PTO and board of education coming together in partnership.

“The collaboration is why we have such an amazing space.”

Teachers wishing to take their classes to the outdoor classroom sign up to do so on a calendar kept in the school’s office.

Minch said a “STEM Day” is being planned for the school, and teachers are going to meet soon to determine more ways to use the outdoor classroom.

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