Tennessee Elementary School Rejects Online Learning, Builds Outdoor Classrooms

Soddy Daisy, TN – As experts begin to question the effectiveness of online schooling, Soddy Elementary has built a new innovative way to encourage learning. Teachers and parents are constructing outdoor classrooms to give students a break from masks, indoor virus measures, and increased use of technology.

Teacher Julia Phillips facilitated a 2019 Tennessee STEM Innovation Network TVA grant of $3,000 to fund the outdoor classroom’s construction.

“The classroom will provide an area for teachers to bring their kids outside for a mask break,” said Phillips.

The outdoor learning project, she said, is meant “to make learning more organic and authentic”.

15 socially distanced students will fit in the 20 x 16 ft classroom, which will have a modern wooden platform with a roof.

The classroom will be open-air and allow students to engage with nature while still benefiting from a structured classroom environment.

“We’re not going to use as much technology in the classroom on a day-to-day basis”, First Grade Teacher Sarah Leeseberg explained.

Students will be able to transition between the indoor and outdoor classrooms daily. Teacher’s believe this outdoor learning experience will provide the elementary students with a break from the lock-down measures, that many are not accustomed to.

Concern amongst parents and teachers has been on the rise as children return to the classroom. The alternative, being 100% online learning, has often brought equal criticism. School districts across Tennessee have been seeking remedies to the growing concerns, and Soddy Elementary School may be leading with this new approach.

Several parents were eager to aid in the construction project, with some showing up to utilize their carpenter skills.  Nick Blasek, a former professional carpenter and parent of a child approaching school age, was in attendance. Nick expressed that he is looking forward to his children enjoying the classroom that he personally helped build.

“STEM is all about taking a real-world situation and creating a way to make that work. We have a real-world problem where we can’t come together and act as we normally would act,” Julia Phillips said. “My hope would be if my students would understand that we can get through anything because we are working together to make the best of it, and we’re working together to make sure each other is OK.”

The outdoor classroom at Soddy Elementary School should be ready for use in a week’s time.

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