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GREENSBORO, N.C. — It may look a bit primitive, but this outdoor classroom is something Foust Elementary School Principal Nicholas Dixon has dreamed of adding to his school.

“When I was a teacher, I would often bring my students outside, and we did engage in some pretty powerful and engaging learning experiences,” Dixon said. 

So, when the pandemic hit, he knew the time was now. He had the perfect area at the school. He did some research and found a company in Canada that makes outdoor classroom furniture.

Then he got more great news. His school was accepted for a grant! The North Carolina Wildlife Council funded $13,000 worth of materials from Beinenstock, a Canadian company that specializes in outdoor spaces.

Dixon says the classroom would not exist without the hard work of the Guilford County Schools Maintenance and Facilities Department.

“They cleared this land. They mulched it down. They installed every single thing because it was truly a collaborative effort when it comes to making this happen,” Dixon said.

When it comes to what lessons can be taught in the space, Dixon says the possibilities are endless.

“We feel like any type of instruction that happens indoors can certainly happen outdoors. And our goal is to blur the lines between outdoor education and indoor education,” Dixon said.

Plus, he says, “We feel like classrooms all without borders. You can learn in any setting. Any lesson can be taught outdoors. And in fact, kids are more likely to be engaged in learning when it is in a natural habitat.”

He is encouraging other schools to explore this type of classroom, especially given the COVID-19 times we are living in.

“This can happen anywhere. And so, I encourage every single school, if they can to invest in outdoor classrooms. You’ll find that your kids will be engaged, and your teachers are going to love teaching in this environment. And the benefits are just countless,” he said.