Outdoor Classroom Inspires Young Minds in Swissvale
The new space is blooming at Dickson Elementary School.
“It’s everything I ever imagined it could be—I love it,” Wagner said. “It’s their garden.”
Wagner of Castle Shannon, the art teacher at Dickson Elementary School, said the outdoor classroom has been six years in the making. When she received a $1,000 grant for the initiative from Awesome Pittsburgh Projects, the funding lined up perfectly with Comcast Cares Day, which brought in 172 volunteers from the business, where her husband, Greg Wagner, is an employee.
“Now it’s at the point where kids can come out for class and have a place to sit and work,” Wagner said.
Located behind the elementary school, the outdoor classroom now has several picnic tables, trees and separated garden plots that will be designated for different grade levels. White pickets have been painted with vibrant colors, designs and names by the students themselves.
One high school student has come back to help since leaving Dickson—there’s one picket for when she was younger and a new one representing her sophomore year in high school.
Right before the kids leave the school to go on to the next grade level, they paint a picket.
The outdoor space is essential for many reasons.
“First of all, it’s important to get the kids outside,” Wagner said. “They’re not getting out as much as we would like them to because they are addicted to these video games and to teach them how to plant and how to harvest—there are so many things they can get from nature and the sky is the limit.”
The space also allows the children to think “outside of the box” of classroom walls.
“I love the idea of them learning outside,” she said. “You can learn from nature—you don’t have to be in a school building to turn that on or off. They’re getting outside and taking pride in their community and school grounds.”