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Interest in Outdoor Classroom Sprouts

Liz Kloeblen, a second grade teacher at Samuel L. Staples Elementary School , is on a mission to start an outdoor classroom. And she presented her plan at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

"Using nature as a mode of education does deeply enhance and supplement indoor education. It also enhances retention and increases self-confidence," Kloeblen said. She also said that children whose attention spans are short in the classroom often become leaders in an outdoor setting, thriving in a more active, hands-on environment. This can also improve classroom behavior, she said.

Her proposed outdoor classroom consists of three areas: the woods, the pond and the meadow. Using Google maps to explore the area behind the school, Kloeblen created a virtual tour of the area and presented it to the school board. The classrooms would be mainly for science lessons, but Kloeblen said math, art, history and English could be incorporated.

Paths would connect the three classrooms, accessible from the back of the school. The plans' most costly element is a solar-powered greenhouse. None of the ideas discussed have been approved for funding.

Principal Kim Fox-Santora said the Easton Learning Foundation supports the project. At least 20 teachers have volunteered for a committee to develop a science curriculum, Kloeblen said.

"I would also like to team up with the [Easton] Historical Society so students can get exposed to the rich history here," said Kloeblen, who has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

Superintendent Michael Cicchetti also gave the project his blessing. "I've always supported this kind of learning. This is one example of integrated learning, which is part of our core values of rigor, relevance and respect for relationships."

The school board endorsed the project, despite one parent's concern that the outdoor classroom would become a "digging ground."

Kloeblen's committee will develop the outdoor classroom further, and then submit its plan to the school board for formal consideration.

ARE THERE TEACHERS AT YOUR SCHOOL WHO ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE? We want to hear about them! E-mail The Daily Easton's David DesRoches and tell us what's going on in your school.

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