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Outdoor Classroom Inspires Young Minds in Swissvale

The new space is blooming at Dickson Elementary School.

dream of creating an outdoor classroom in  is now complete thanks to a local grant and the manpower of almost 200 volunteers.

“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 , 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 , 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.”

Todd Anderson May 09, 2012 at 07:37 PM
It's great to see the outdoor classroon idea happening here. With participation in the softball and football leagues dwindling, maybe the fields next to the school could be turned into rain gardens, and green space, so the outside classroom concept can be expanded.
Cheryl Bridge May 10, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Mrs. Wagner is an amazing teacher, she is dedicated and truly loves the students she teachers, it is evident in her interaction, time and commitment. We love you Mrs. Wagner and the Staff at Dickson who work so hard to enrich the lives of students.. Cheryl Bridge

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