Norwich University and Union Elementary students came together to make a childhood dream come true for a whole school

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Located just behind the swing sets at Union Elementary School is the outdoor classroom, referred to as the Nest. It’s a space for everyone as it is accessible for everyone complying with the Americans with Disability Act regulations.


“The Nest is an outdoor classroom that my undergraduate architecture students at Norwich designed in 2018. The students gathered ideas from the Union Elementary School kids and they took all those ideas and they distilled them into this structure,” said Director of the School of Architecture at Norwich University, Toyla Stonorov.

The structure has been recognized for its unique design, winning a Merit Award from the New England Chapter of American Institute of Architects.


“Four of us had this little workshop where we asked students to give us their ideas on what they wanted to see in a playhouse and they drew us these really elaborate pictures. We also invited them into our studio and they helped us paint these pegs,” said Norwich University Graduate, Whitney Bachelder.

The Principal of Union Elementary School, Ryan Heraty said the outdoor area is where the kids can play and use creativity in the middle of the day.

“It’s a terrific structure because students can come in here if they just want to relax and read and have some quite time. There is also some big body movement spaces in their where kids can climb and play, I think for them it resembles the childhood dream of a treehouse,” said Heraty.


The students flock to the Nest during recess and let their imaginations fly.

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