Swampscott embraces the great outdoors


SWAMPSCOTT — Students at Swampscott Middle School won’t be limited to lessons in a typical four-walled classroom next year.

Come September, the wooded area across from the school will be turned into an outdoor learning space to encourage hands-on and active learning of nature.

“We’re creating an outdoor space to grow and label plants and trees, and identify the wildlife, like the birds and squirrels around here,” said Principal Jason Calichman, “We’ll have movable  benches so multiple grades can be there at the same time. These benches will be light so teachers and students can pick up these benches to conduct a lesson wherever they want in this area.”

All grades will use the outdoor space, weather permitting, giving students a unique accessibility to nature, he said.

Part time enrichment teacher, Gail Anderson, conceived the outside classroom idea and came to Gino Cresta, director of public works, for help.

“I committed to the project about a year and a half ago because I figured it would be a great idea to help out,” he said.

The project was funded by the DPW although a lot of the materials are being drawn from a surplus of materials from other projects.

“We had a surplus of funds from the Blocksidge Field turf project and decided to use that money by hauling it up the street. The blocks you can see around the trees came from Machon Elementary School.”

Anderson also wrote a grant to the DPW for funds that Cresta believes will be used for chairs, tables, and other things for the students, he said.

The DPW is currently clearing parts of the wooded area. Once an unused space containing lots of trash, said Calichman, now will be fully utilized.

“Anything pretty that happens at Swampscott Middle School she has done it,” said the principal. “She did the boat, the flowers, the planters, the mulch. I drive by on the weekends and she’s pulling weeds. It’s pretty amazing how dedicated she is to the school and the students.”

Superintendent Pamela R. H. Angelakis posted on her blog Monday detailing the ways the middle school plans to use the space.

“Using the Audubon Society and other resources, students will build bird houses, create a pollinator garden, and plant native woodland plants as needed.  Students will make signs identifying the plants and animals as well as mapping the outdoor space for students, teachers, and visitors to use when visiting the Outdoor Classroom.”

Angelakis said outdoor seating, some purchased and other made by students, will be available to construct amphitheater seating for a class play or presentation, such as the preschoolers’ Barnyard Babies program.

“As Forest Avenue is the entrance to the Swampscott Middle School, it is our hope that this Outdoor Classroom will give visitors a small sample of all the wonderful learning opportunities that are happening in our schools.”

Matt Demirs can be reached at [email protected].

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