Students Helping Students Build an Outdoor Classroom

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 04/19 2014 06:20PM

Updated 04/19 2014 08:51PM

COLCHESTER, Vt. - Students at Mallets Bay School will soon be able to enjoy class outside. All thanks to a partnership between the school and students at UVM.

The project is a part of the senior capstone class at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at UVM. Students Colleen Whitcomb and Meredith Sampson, along with three fellow classmates, are working to help make the elementary students dream of having an outdoor classroom a reality.

“We started off with a contest where students could submit their ideas. And what they'd like to see in the classroom and really open it up to any possibility,” said Colleen Whitcomb, a senior at UVM.

“There were some really, really cute ideas and there were some crazy ones too. We saw a few glass domes in trees, and vending machine ideas,” said Meredith Sampson, a senior at UVM.

After collecting ideas and consulting with students the group came up with a design.

“Since then we've been working with the school and the community to kind of figure out where we are going to get all these things and everyone has been so generous and willing to help out,” said Whitcomb.

While most learning takes place inside the classroom, that's all about to change. On Monday a courtyard outside the school will be transformed into a classroom. And students will be able to take their lessons outside.

“There have been so many studies indicating that especially for children time spent outdoors can have a lot of beneficial health outcomes, whether it be physical health, mental health, social health,” said Whitcomb.

While students may benefit from being outside, the classroom furniture needs to be able to withstand Mother Nature.

“That was definitely one of the things we looked into. Making sure things can withstand for many years to come because they don’t want to be replacing it every few years and we want to make sure we do a good job,” said Sampson.

And all the students both elementary and college are excited to watch the project come to life.

“It’s not just a pretend thing that I’m fixing on a piece of paper this is actually a tangible thing that I’ll be able to see happen. And it will make a difference in people’s lives right now. I’m really, really excited to see it through,” said Sampson.

The students plan to build the classroom on Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  And the students are looking for more volunteers to help do some gardening and heavy lifting.

For those interested in lending a hand you can contact Whitcomb at or just you can just show up at Mallets Bay School anytime between 10-3 on Monday.

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