“Hurry up and wait.” “The wheels of change grind slowly.” “Patience is a virtue.” All frustrating phrases that no middle schooler really wants to hear. The action project for the CAP students at Angevine Middle School was a little bit of a lesson in these aphorisms, but also a lesson on how it is important to have big dreams and goals and at least get started instead of waiting indefinitely for the “perfect time” to start something big.
The AMS CAP class has big dreams. These students LOVE being outside and beg to go outdoors even when it is cold, snowy, rainy, or hot or Tuesday. They want all students to get the chance to be outside during class time, even if they aren’t in CAP class, so they decided that they wanted to build an outdoor classroom to make it easier for teachers to take their classes out for lessons. They knew that getting permission from the city and the school district and school administration would take some time, but they were undaunted in this as they were with every other challenge put in front of them this semester.
Through their research they found out that Nature Deficit Disorder is an issue accelerating lots of problems like obesity, lack of attention, and poor mental health. They then set out to find the barriers to teachers taking students outside during the day. They sent out a survey to teachers to find out why they might not take their classes outside and what amenities they might need to break down these barriers.
They found that besides “a magic fairy to make students pay attention,” the leading request was for seating because people are reluctant to sit on the ground and get dirty or wet. Other requests were for writing surfaces, shade, natural-looking areas, and a weather station. The kids designed great ideas for seating and found an area that would work well, then got permission from the administration to put in an outdoor classroom, but were unable to get permission from the district in time to build benches.
The students got around this by making a portable outdoor classroom using repurposed yoga mats for seating and clipboards with pencils attached. They included class companion “Pablo” the Talking Stick as a substitute for the magic fairy (“You can’t hablo without Pablo.”) and added sunscreen all in a rollable plastic tub that teachers could take anywhere outside.
These students have big dreams and really got the ball rolling on the idea of an outdoor classroom space at the school. They have spread their excitement to teachers and the administration, and hopefully this momentum will continue and they will be able to build a permanent outdoor space. In the meantime, they came up with a solution that they are proud of.
Written by Angevine Middle School CAP Instructor Erin Angel
See more photos from the action project here!