Bordentown Middle School opens new outdoor classroom

The new outdoor classroom site at Bordentown Regional Middle School features a newly installed wooden pergola, laid stone, a refurnished podium and six benches that already existed on the site as well as a stone garden to honor multiple school staff members. Photo by Thomas Wiedmann

The Bordentown Regional Middle School community celebrated an initiative to encourage new ways of learning with the installation of an outdoor classroom.

Bordentown municipal officials, school district members and students gathered for an introduction ceremony to open the newest addition to the middle school, which was held on June 5 at the outdoor classroom site.

The site features a newly installed wooden pergola, laid stone, a refurnished podium and six benches that already existed on the site as well as a stone garden to honor multiple school staff members.

Bordentown Regional Middle School Principal Joseph Sprague said that the new learning ground is aimed to benefit the students.

“Our Impact Club does a school beautification project every year, and this year they took on the initiative of working with this project to create an outdoor classroom,” Sprague said. “It’s another learning place where our kids can go and have an opportunity to learn outside.”

Along with the new learning opportunities that the site aims to provide, Sprague also said that a rock garden along the perimeter of the classroom site features stones that can be decorated and designed to remember deceased staff members and loved ones in the school community for students.

Outside of a traditional meeting with a school guidance counselor, the middle school principal said that the new space presents a way for students to go out to the rock garden for a solitary moment of consolation and reflection for their loved ones.

“We feel it’s another place where our kids can feel safe to learn,” Sprague said. “We also have a memorial garden for students who may have lost a family member or loved on, so a student can go out there when they need some time alone to reflect and have a space to feel comfortable in.”

Not only does the outdoor classroom provide new ways for students to interact and engage outside of the school building, Sprague also noted that the newly installed space is representative of the middle school’s efforts to encourage a confident learning atmosphere.

“If you walk the halls of our building, you can see the culture and climate that we have in this school,” he said. “It’s a positive environment. It’s always very vibrant and we have a lot of positive messages, and [the outdoor classroom] helps add to the culture of the school.

“When people walk through our halls, look out the window and see [the outdoor classroom], they will know that most of the work was done by the kids, our staff and our school – that they took the time because they care about our building,” Sprague added.

During the opening ceremony for the classroom, school counselor and Impact Club advisor Dawn Patterson discussed the background of work and planning that went into the new learning space as well as a moment to recognize multiple community members involved with the construction of the site.

Patterson said that the school community had an idea in Fall 2017 to renovate the space, and with the help and support of Sprague, community donations and a local volunteer, the new site came to be.

“This was already an existing space, but the school beautification is a passion of mine,” Patterson said.

Given her commitment for the school’s beautification program, Patterson said she had several murals painted inside of the building. When she noticed that outdoor space was not being used, she decided to take action and improve it.

She said that the bulk of the project was completed during the 2018-19 school year from September 2018 to its completion in June this year.

A special moment was also held during the ceremony to honor and acknowledge Cynthia Grayson, a science teacher at the middle school who passed away in December last year. Grayson was employed in the Bordentown Regional School District for 11 years. She spent four years at Bordentown Regional High School and seven years at the middle school.

Her husband William Grayson was on hand at the event in honor of his wife, but was also acknowledged as well for his efforts to raise funds and made multiple contributions to the school in his wife’s memory.

As the new site aims to become a permanent, defining feature for the middle school, Patterson said that she plans to add more to the site in upcoming years such as the placement of Trumpet Vine and shrubbery to enhance its visual appeal.

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