Columbia Elementary adds outdoor classroom for next school year

Principal built ten benches for outdoor classes

JOPLIN, Mo. – After being out of the classroom for five months, 3rd-grade teacher Nicole Hart is excited to be getting back.

“Five months is a long time. I’m used to only a couple of months,” says Hart.

But she’s going to face a lot of changes and challenges, as will her students.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking. It feels like your first year of teaching all over again because everything’s different,” says Hart. “Cleaning routines are going to be different, we’re gonna have to put mask routines into our day.”

“It’s very difficult when you think about kindergarten through fifth grade because having kids that are used to being able to, actually, even just give you a hug,” says Columbia Principal Shally Lundien.

So they have to do a lot to keep kids safe. But, they also want to make class time fun for the kids. So they’ve set up an outdoor classroom.

“It can be spaced. The great thing is, we can move the classroom to anywhere on campus that we feel like would be a good learning site or just something fun for the kids,” says Lundien.

By using material donated from Hart’s husband and Meeks Hardware, Lundien built ten wooden benches for outdoor class time. They’re long enough for two kids to sit on them and still have six feet between them.

“We figured they’re gonna be kind of isolated in their classrooms and it’s a little more difficult. So we figured if we can get them outside as well and they can still learn and enjoy nature a little bit, it’s a win-win,” says Lundien.

So it’s a simple thing that will make going to school a little more exciting for students.

“They look forward to things like that. It’ll set us apart from everybody else,” says Hart. “They’ll be able to talk to their friends about how they have this cool outdoor classroom. And it’ll make school a little more exciting for them.”

Lundien says she has enough material to make three more benches if they end up needing them. Students will be able to try them out pretty soon too since school starts on the 24th.