Outdoor Learning Space - Garrett Heights EMS

Outdoor Learning Space - Garrett Heights EMS

This past year, the Heart of the School Fund supported schools’ COVID-friendly projects and site enhancements such as technology to support remote learning and professional development to enrich classroom instruction and student learning.

At the start of the 2020-’21 school year, Garrett Heights’ Principal Matthews-Traynham sought to expand the school's outdoor learning spaces to provide a safe environment for staff, students and families to utilize whether students were attending in-person classes or learning remotely. While schools were closed, many parents and families requested options and strategies to support students’ social and emotional needs. With that in mind, Principal Matthews-Traynham applied for, and was awarded, a grant to expand and update the school's outdoor classrooms, install interactive learning spaces for sensory learning around campus and develop an interactive native species garden. The interactive spaces served to support in-person instruction as well as provide families with outdoor learning activities they could incorporate into their distance learning schedule.

Take a look at what Principal Matthews-Traynham had to say about the outdoor classroom project: “[Students] have been excited. The classrooms have been used both for in-person and [remote learning]. As we weren’t able to get all grades fully back in-person until April, when schools began re-opening, we had some kiddos that were still at-home but they were still coming up to the school and utilizing the campus. We’ve had kids, parents and community partners come out and they’ve been in awe of the things we’ve been able to install on the campus."

“My teachers were also very excited. One of my teachers Ms. Hartman was named the Teacher of the Year in the Mid-Atlantic for Out Teach because she incorporates outdoor experiential learning with her students. As soon as we installed the outdoor classroom and came back, she had her students out there just about once a week whether that was looking at the cicadas or looking at the butterflies that were visiting the garden.”

"[Through] our annual Green Apple Day of Service we were able to get more kids and families out to help us with planting [the garden]. We offer community service learning for students who come out and to help us tend the garden and [maintain it] through weeding and things like that. That’s part of something that we plan to build into the upcoming school year as well.”

This is one of many examples of the outstanding projects principals are implementing through the Heart of the School Fund.