SALT LAKE CITY - September 19, 2007 - As Olympus Jr. High students returned to the classroom this fall they can’t help but notice the newest addition to the school grounds, the Outdoor Classroom. The new ½ acre outdoor amphitheater and surrounding park area were conceptually designed by honors students in JoAnne Brown’s honors science classes with the help of students studying landscape architecture and environmental studies from the University of Utah.
The multifaceted purpose of the outdoor classroom according to Principal Eric Bergmann is to, "serve not only as a tribute to our many, many former students, but to the entire Holladay community who have been so instrumental to our success…(The) Outdoor Classroom will have an instructional function as well. It will contain an amphitheater to be used by teachers and students."
The plants surrounding the outdoor classroom, as designed by the Honors students, are to be microcosms of the many different biospheres throughout the state of Utah. Alan Weaver, a Landscape Architect with Stantec Consulting Inc., donated time and expertise to bring the students’ design to reality."
The idea for the outdoor classroom began in 2005 when Ms. Brown received the Excel Outstanding Educator Award that included $1,000 to be given directly to her school, Olympus Jr. High. In determining how to best use the award, Ms. Brown said, "I saw this as a way that I could help brighten our school's campus by using the money for landscaping or perhaps a 'nature trail.' Since the fall of 2005, I have had students investigating native plants and sustainable gardening, with the thought of planting native Utah plants and labeling them with student help." The project vision expanded during the fall of 2006 to become an outdoor classroom with the support of Principal Bergmann and PTA representative Christine Ivory.
Physical project work began mid-July on the $73,000 project that is to be funded entirely by donations and grants. A project team from Ivory Homes coordinated the project that included donations from Ivory Homes, Hadco Construction, Landscape Management Services (LMS), and Stantec Consulting, Inc.. In total, contributors to the ½ acre project provided the labor and materials needed to create 300 linear feet of walking pathway, a 1000 ft2 dry creek bed, a handicapped accessible 65-80 person amphitheater, and used 50 different plant types to create a beautiful new learning environment for the students.
"The vision of our outdoor classroom is that it is adopted by our whole school community, including students, PTSA, and Administration," said Ms. Brown. "As time goes on, I want this to be part of our school that identifies with learning for all teachers and students. From measurements to self-reflection, identifying and classifying to creating, I want this to truly be an outdoor classroom, a logical extension of our school that is used on a regular basis.
There is still much to be done to bring the project to its full potential and community support is needed. Community members can contribute to the effort by mailing donations to the "Bulldog Futures Fund" care of Scott Whipple at the Granite Education Foundation, 450 E 3700 S SLC, UT 84115. All donations are tax deductible and donation amounts more than $500 will be recognized with an inscribed flagstone in the garden area.