Alexander Outdoor Classroom First of its Kind in WNY

5:21 PM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
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ALEXANDER, NY - Instead of being stuck behind a desk, third graders from Alexander Elementary School learned their lesson on butterflies in their butterfly garden.

The garden is one of the many stations that's part of the school's new outdoor classroom.

It is made up of different areas where kids can practice teamwork, try their hand at art, brainstorm, and sometimes, just play.

The Thomas E. Rider nature study area is named after a longtime science teacher in the district who was also pre-K teacher Ellie Jink's uncle.

Jinks applied for a Pepsi Refresh grant and used the $50,000 to build the area.  The school got another $50,000 from additional grants, donations, and fundraisers.  No tax dollars were used for the project.

"Just the feeling I get from being out here, just makes me feel good, and I see it in the children too. It excites them," said Jinks.

While the outdoor classroom is used mainly by younger students, the goal is to have middle and high school students take their lessons outdoors too.

"So much research has shown that this facilitates kids creativity, attention, physical exercise, and sense of well-being, and it really can translate into better test scores," said parent Sheila Hess.

Plans and fundraising for phases two and three are now underway.  Teachers want to add a greenhouse and a bike path.

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