West Ada’s students head out to learn

A new classroom at West Ada’s Lowell Scott Middle School has no windows, walls or desks — by design.

The outdoor classroom features a main stage area with amphitheater grass seating and five modules of cement slabs that will support group learning lessons for students.

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Outdoor amphitheater

The outdoor learning project was funded by a $100,000 Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge grant. Paula Brockman, an English and geology teacher at Lowell Scott, won the grant last year after thousands of EdNews readers and Idaho residents voted online for her outdoor vision. Lowell Scott is one of six schools from across the nation to win.

“You need the outdoors to do your learning,” Brockman said. “The space can be used for whatever imagination the teacher might have.”

Nearly 250 students gathered Wednesday to celebrate the new learning space during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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“Most of the classrooms at our school don’t have windows — it will be nice to enjoy the sunshine,” said Halley Hoellwarth, a seventh grader at Lowell Scott. “Being outside refreshes your brain and makes you think better.”

Students will learn a variety of subject’s outdoors, bringing out notebooks for math, performing for English skits and conducting science group projects. The grant also paid for a fish farm for students to learn about the process of raising fish.

“Students are learning at a deeper level rather than doing worksheets,” said Scott Cowen, a science teacher at Lowell Scott. “When you can bring living things to a school kids have a natural infinity.”

LKV Architects and CM Company employees donated time and resources to help the outdoor classroom become a reality.

“We aren’t done yet,” Brockman said. “More grants are in the works to continue to build on this great space.”

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Cement modules