J.T. Barber Elementary Awarded Grant for Outdoor Classroom

Outdoor Classroom
Photo of how the outdoor classroom will look when finished

J.T. Barber Elementary School is a Title I school serving a diverse community of learners. The staff actively seeks grants and enlists the help of spouses, relatives, and community members to meet the special needs of the school and its staff. J.T. Barber Elementary has been fortunate enough to partner with Troop 13 from Centenary UMC on several occasions, to facilitate Eagle projects to benefit their school grounds and for their community of learners.

J.T. Barber Elementary (JTB) decided that the students in grades 3-5 would benefit from an outdoor classroom. Erica Phillips (Principal), Phyllis Willis (PE Teacher), Janet Hatfield (Art Teacher), Taylor Babson (Music Teacher), Betty Witt (Media Specialist), and Debbie Myers (Title 1 Teacher Assistant) and Kim Herring (Retired Title I Teacher), collaborated to apply for $4,000 in funding from Partners In Education (PIE) for the Harold H. Bate Foundation Individual School Grant, that is administered by PIE for the Bate Foundation. An outdoor sheltered classroom will offer teachers the opportunity to stimulate the learning environment of the diverse learners at J. T. Barber. The outdoor classroom will consist of a covered, open-air building with a concrete floor. This structure will provide a positive, safe, nurturing environment for the students.

Studies have shown that we rely heavily on our senses to process information when learning and engaging more than one sense when teaching can help information processing. Using multiple senses allows more cognitive connections and associations to be made with a concept. This project will engage students through the senses of touching, smelling, hearing, tasting, and seeing which will help them retain an intimate physical memory of activities that are long-lasting and synergistic. It will foster active, hands-on, inquiry-based learning in a real-world setting. Examples of how J.T. Barber staff will utilize the facility include: music students will have the opportunity to compare and contrast how different music sounds in the outdoors vis-à-vis a classroom; art students will be able to draw pictures from the natural environment; and physical education students will have a shady spot to receive instruction from their teacher.  Regular education classrooms will be able to conduct experiments outdoors, experience guided reading lessons and many other real-world activities in a natural open air setting.  When not in use by a class, the outdoor classroom will be used by students to sit and read or to play games with friends during recess. This structure will be one of three (one already built) to offer shade on the open playground.

The 15 x 20 foot structure will have a concrete floor and a sloped corrugated roof with bench seating on three sides and a teacher desk in the middle. The plans for the structure were completed by Jim Herring, husband of teacher Kim Herring. The structure will be built as an Eagle Scout project by Hunter Sanders from Centenary United Methodist Church’s Boy Scout Troop 13. This will be the fifth Eagle Scout project that this Troop has completed for J.T. Barber Elementary School. Hunter is responsible for applying for the building permit and overseeing the construction. It will take three adults and six to eight scouts to build the structure, and construction will be completed over one weekend. It is anticipated that the outdoor classroom will be done by May, but it is hoped that if the weather cooperates that it may be completed by the end of February.

For information on Partners in Education, the local education foundation for Craven County Schools, contact Executive Director Darlene Brown via email or visit PIE’s website at CravenPartners.com.

Submitted by: Darlene Brown, Partners In Education