Community helps High Point school create outdoor classroom, sets sights on creating mindfulness garden

What's Right with Our Schools

HIGH POINT, N.C. — PTA members at Southwest Elementary School haven’t let the pandemic slow down their support of the school.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, they couldn’t get inside the school to volunteer, so members found themselves not just thinking outside the box but outside literally.

According to PTA Vice President Megan Bocci, the organization found ways to expand learning outside.

“What if we set up classrooms outside?” she said. “We had seen other schools do it and thought, ‘We have two perfect spaces right here with these two courtyards to set up, stumps, picnic table and just what kids enjoy being outside.’ It gives them a chance to take their masks off for a second, because we made sure that the seats were socially distanced, and they can experience nature while learning.”

The result has been a huge hit with students and teachers alike. But volunteers didn’t stop there. 

Work is underway on a mindfulness garden that students and teachers can use as a place to get away outside and relax a bit. 

“As you know, anybody in their workday gets frustrated at some point in time, same thing happens with students,” said Jodi Johnson, PTA president. “Things get tedious, they get tired, you need outside stimulation. So the mindfulness garden is really a place that children could go to re-center themselves. There will be lots of different textures and audit auditory as well as visual stimulation in the area that should help students just have a place to go be calm, think about what they want to get done that day, and then go back into the classroom and, and have some success.”

There are also big plans to turn the bus parking lot at the school into a painted play area for the kids.

“It’s going to be great during the summer when children need something to do,” Bocci said. “They’re coming to the school. They’ll be able to have activities that they can play with throughout the school year with their class during PE and even through the summer.”

That’s when everyone is most concerned about learning loss.

To try and combat that the PTA installed two lending libraries. Students can visit the boxes and take a book of their choice to read.

The High Point community has come together to make these additions happen and there is hope they can make more improvements in the future.

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