Outdoor Classroom

The Outdoor Classroom

Fall 2003 – Spring 2007

The Outdoor Classroom was a lesson in patience, and belief; that a great idea can be a chrysalis from which something unexpected and wonderful can grow. It was the longest of all the garden projects because it became so big. There were times of a lot of stress but also lots of dedication and laughter.

There was a point where I felt really stressed because everybody had all these expectations. I realized I had a choice. I could react and get all freaked out, too, or I could make a mantra: This is a volunteer project. It’s going to fall into place. It’s going to work out. And it did.

Annie Tucker – project lead

Atkinson teacher Jonathan Steinhoff received a National Geographic Education Grant to guide children in studying natural building techniques. The original idea for a small wattle-and-daub shelter proved unwieldy — it was too small for classes to really take advantage of it.

Inspired by visionary architect Samuel Mockbee, parent and architectural designer Kenton Wiens drew up schemes for a classroom that would serve a class of thirty students. Parents Steve and Annie Tucker signed on as project contractor and project lead. Children made cob benches for the future classroom. Swinerton Builders of Portland would oversee construction, and offered building materials.


The project took much longer and cost much more than anyone expected. Work went slowly. Swinerton dedicated three employees to the project for three months. When the construction finally finished, three first grade classes, working with parent volunteers, planted native plants around the building.

That was the amazing thing about this whole project. People just kept showing up at the right time to make sure that things worked.

Annie Tucker – project lead