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Chamberlain plans outdoor classroom

A sketch of a proposed outdoor classroom between the Chamberlain high school and middle school. (Sketch courtesy of Chamberlain School District)

CHAMBERLAIN — The Chamberlain School District plans to break ground before the end of next week on an outdoor classroom that will be used for hands-on learning.

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The 160-by-80-foot area located between the high school and the middle school will cost between $15,000 and $20,000, according to Chamberlain Superintendent Debbie Johnson. She said a specific date for groundbreaking has not been set.

It will be paid for with a $10,000 donation from the Orrion and Edith Barger Memorial Foundation, a $5,000 private donation and Chamberlain School District Foundation fundraisers.

The outdoor classroom will be available for use by all Chamberlain School District students, and will allow teachers to focus on teaching hands-on material in science, math, agriculture and other courses.

“With science, for example, there will be different shrubs, soils and grasses, and students can be collecting data on any of that and putting it into charts and graphs,” Johnson said. “The uses for learning are very general right now.”

The outdoor classroom will have a brick patio area in its center and will include shrubs, trees and native prairie grasses. The plans were designed by Foster Iversen and Zach Zimprich. Iversen is the head of grounds at St. Joseph’s Indian School and has a background in landscaping. Zimprich is a South Dakota State University graduate with a landscaping and design background.

Johnson said work will be done through this fall and will resume this spring when weather allows.

She said some students with the FFA will help in planting, and will have a hand in some of the development of the project later in the spring.

The goals of the outdoor classroom will be to increase science and math scores, allowing students to select their own projects, using technology with the outdoors, having a different form of teaching rather than just textbooks, and connecting the school to the community with projects outdoors.

“There have been discussions for about eight years about what we’re going to do with that space,” Johnson said.