In Fall 2003 Atkinson teacher Jonathan Steinhoff received a $5000 National Geographic Education Foundation Teacher’s Grant. As part of this education grant, students studied natural building techniques from around the world, and then in May 2004, Atkinson took part in the Village Building Convergence, sponsored by City Repair. All the students in the school participated in building cob benches for future use in the outdoor classroom. Students also built a wattle and daub wall for the classroom during classroom construction in spring 2005.
The original vision was to create a shelter for a small group of students. A design team of parents and teachers determined that a structure large enough to accommodate a full class of students would better serve our needs. Since that was outside the scope of the original grant, we approached designers and builders in the community to help us realize our vision. Kenton Wiens, an architectural designer and Atkinson parent volunteer was the project’s primary designer. Building plans were drawn by Steve Tucker, General Contractor and Atkinson parent volunteer. Swinerton Builders of Portland generously offered to provide materials and oversee the construction of the superstructure of the outdoor classroom, which was built in spring 2005.
Led by Atkinson parent Annie Tucker, parent volunteers and a host of community businesses were responsible for completing the rest of the classroom: the brick floor, living roof and glass windows. The floor was installed by parent volunteers in winter 2005. In spring 2006 one kindergarten and three first grade classes worked with parent volunteers to plant a native plant garden around the building. The roof was completed in Fall 2006, and the glass wall was installed in spring 2007. The total project cost is estimated to be over $100,000, most of that donated in materials and labor. Our outdoor classroom not only provides a place for classes to gather as they explore the gardens, it also serves as a stage for plays and a gathering place for the Atkinson community.
To read more about the outdoor classroom, see the article “Atkinson Elementary begins building its outdoor classroom,” The Southeast Examiner, April 2, 2005, written by an OLG committee member.