Brunswick's new classroom takes learning outside

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BRUNSWICK — Junior high school students will soon get to enjoy more than just a few minutes outside during the day. 

Thanks to a recently completed outdoor classroom space, they will be able to take classes outdoors, too.

The space is in the back of Brunswick Junior High School, and offers a stone patio with two picnic tables and umbrellas, and two benches for students to sit on. It is also lined with planters holding small fruit trees, and has a blue sun sail for additional shade.

Seventh-grade science teacher Sue Lamdin and physical education teacher Joan Iuzzolino were the leaders of the project, which took more than two years to finish. It was funded through a grant from the Brunswick Community Education Foundation.

Lamdin and Iuzzolino addressed fellow faculty members at a ribbon-cutting for the new area Aug. 30, and thanked those who contributed to the effort.

“This is a special day. (It) has taken 2 1/2 years to reach this point and we are very thrilled to celebrate the addition of this outdoor classroom to the learning areas of Brunswick Junior High,” Lamdin said.

A weekly sign up sheet is available to teachers to reserve the space for classes.

Lamdin said the idea for the outdoor classroom came after a garden in the area became overgrown over the summer. Before the garden was planted, a mobile unit for classes was parked there, which left a large open space.

Iuzzolino said she drew out a plan for the outdoor classroom before bringing it to Lamdin. The area was largely constructed using her drawing, though a few modifications were made throughout the process.

“There was an old garden here and it was just getting overgrown it was a real eyesore … we realized that the kids don’t get out a lot,” she said. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we make this some kind of a space that can be utilized by everybody (and) doesn’t require a lot of maintenance?'”

She and Lamdin then decided to complete the project in two phases. The first phase last summer consisted of building the planters at the site and clearing the area of weeds and dirt to make way for the patio.

That work was completed with an initial BCEF grant for roughly $1,200, according to Iuzzolino.

Then, after receiving an additional grant from BCEF this summer for $2,500, the work to install the patio, tables and benches took place over the course of four days.

Iuzzolino said all the work was done by volunteers, barring a day last spring when the school grounds crew cleared debris from the area. The volunteers worked from 8 a.m. until noon, before the sun got too hot. 

Iuzzolino said her husband acted as the foreman on the project, and among the volunteers were some junior high students and their parents.

Lamdin also listed multiple companies who donated materials or gave discounts for the effort, including Skillins Greenhouses, which discounted the five pear and apple trees planted around the space. 

Hammond Lumber Company also donated wood for the picnic tables, and Loew’s discounted the umbrellas and stands.

Ultimately, Iuzzolino said all types of classes can benefit from being outside, ranging from language arts to math and everything in between. She also said the fact that students will need to walk to and from the space will add extra exercise to their day.

“I’m a P.E. teacher and I just don’t think we let our kids move enough, especially at this age,” she said. “So I just thought this was going to be the most practical use of the space with the least amount of maintenance.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Brunswick Junior High School science teacher Sue Lamdin, left, and physical education teacher Joan Iuzzolino in the school’s new outdoor classroom Aug. 30.