Students Design Outdoor Classroom

The classroom concept is changing on our campus, thanks to our students’ input and designs.  Last April, 6th grade teacher Sky Jenkins asked Bosque’s Facilities Department about the possibilities for an outdoor classroom. Something like this had been proposed by teachers before, but an outdoor workspace was never fully realized. The concept is perfect for Bosque School due to our unique architectural layout. When Mazria and Associates began designing the original campus site and buildings in 1998, they carefully studied and incorporated the connections of indoor and outdoor spaces, capitalizing on our serene setting. 

Ms. Jenkins was hoping for an outdoor space with a direct connection to her regular classroom, situated on the large patio on the east side of the Middle School. In discussions with Kirk Ward head of Facilities, it was decided that students should be involved in the collaboration. “We needed to understand the expectations and what the students thought would make for a connected learning space,” explained Mr. Ward. “Ms. Jenkins developed a curriculum that challenged students to become designers.” Working in small groups, students designed boards illustrating furniture requests, color schemes, item placement, and even building material suggestions. The completed designs were then proudly submitted to the Facilities Department. 

This summer presented the perfect opportunity to begin constructing the space. “We began by breaking down the designs and seeing common themes, such as shaded areas, large group seating areas with work surfaces, and smaller individual seating areas,” Mr. Ward detailed. The greatest challenge would be keeping the project to a small budget. Pinterest was the answer to this puzzle. “We were excited to discover numerous ideas using discarded pallets,” continued Mr. Ward. “We looked across the street and like a beacon in the night, there was a glorious mountain of pallets left over from the shopping center construction, free for the taking.” Pallets became seating, old tables were repurposed and repainted, and awnings were installed. The final space is large enough to accomodate about 20 students comfortably. 

“Can we stay out here all day?” asked Ms. Jenkins 6th grade geography class. The spot has become a popular hang out during and between classes. “Kids are using the space all the time,” Ms. Jenkins beamed, excited for the emerging possibilities to integrate classroom work with the outdoors. With this project successfully completed, the Facilities Department and Bosque’s faculty are looking forward to more collaborations for utilizing Bosque’s campus in new ways.