Skyview Elementary School seeks Great Outdoors Colorado mini grant for outdoor classroom | MyWindsorNow.com

Skyview Elementary School seeks Great Outdoors Colorado mini grant for outdoor classroom

James Redmond
jredmond@mywindsornow.com

This conceptual design of Skyview Elementary School’s potential outdoor classroom shows some of the different features they hope to include if they receive the Great Outdoors Colorado mini grant.

It started about three years ago as an idea, an outdoor classroom at Skyview Elementary School for students to discover, experience and learn from the land.

Now with a possible Great Outdoor Colorado Mini grant in the near future, it might just become a reality Skyview officials believe could benefit the whole community.

Three yeas ago when the school started its Roots & Shoots program, first with in-class elements then an after-school program, students took quickly to the hands-on discovery learning, said Kendra Jacoby, Skyview gifted and talented education teacher. Her and Roxanne Visconti, Skyview first grade teacher, worked with the students to teach them about nature and agriculture.

During a visit to the wetlands near the school with Windsor Mayor John Vasquez, she remembers the students asking him if the plants were dying. He told them the plants were just sleeping through the cold seasons before waking up in the spring.

The students were able to learn so much, so quickly in a way they enjoyed and remembered, Jacoby said.

From there the acorn that was the idea of an outdoor classroom started growing into an oak tree.

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The conceptual design of the outdoor classroom, located along the east side of the school, would have a slew of features — from an amphitheater to a bridge and path over wetlands areas and more — giving students a wealth of options for outdoor learning.

"I know having four boys how important hands-on learning is for kids," Jacoby said. "How much of a difference it will make in their engagement in school and that something like this for kids like ours can make all the difference in the world."

The classroom could make a difference in a lot of students' lives, letting them experience nature, science and learning for themselves, she said. However, the hope is to open the classroom up to more than just Skyview and to make it a destination at which students from all over the district could visit and learn.

"It's not just sitting and getting (knowledge). The kids are involved in some kind of discovery each time they come and they also learn to be advocates (of the outdoors)," Skyview Elementary School Principal Tammy Seib said.

With the possibilities of an outdoor classroom, the school began its own fundraising efforts to make it happen.

Students in the Roots & Shoots program raised funds by selling bags they made from old t-shirts. They made tile paintings they sold at an agriculture fair they put on, both to raise funds as well. Small grants from different organizations in the community also went to supporting the goal of an outdoor classroom.

Last year emerged the idea of pursuing a larger grant — a $60,000 GOCO mini grant — and they decided to go for it.

With the funds they've worked to collect for the past three years and support from the community in the form of in-kind donations, the school already had enough for the local matching portion of the grant required by GOCO.

Now the school needs the town to sign on to support the application. Already the school board gave Skyview the go-ahead to seek Windsor's municipal support, and the town's Parks, Recreation and Culture Advisory Board approved it, Jacoby said.

Come Sept. 21, their application will go before the Windsor Town Board for approval.

If the town approves, then Skyview can submit their grant application and take one more step toward their outdoor classroom, and what the teachers and officials hope will give students a special learning opportunity.

"(An outdoor classroom) is something that's real life," Seib said.

"And they get to discover it for themselves," Jacoby said. "The kids truly feel like scientists."

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