Killaloe – Staff and students at Killaloe Public School celebrated the opening of their “latest, largest and rockiest Outdoor Classroom” as described by Principal Anne George, on Thursday, October 7th.
The new outdoor classroom is situated behind the school, amongst a grove of trees with large stones for seating donated by Alex and Alison Brown from Valley Landscaping and Excavating in Douglas.
The outdoor classroom is a true community effort. Local residents, Jimmy and Natalie McClement, and some family members brought in machines, volunteering their time to install the giant stones and lay them out.
To celebrate the opening of the classroom, students sat in a circle as Roberta Della-Picca of the Algonquins of the Bonnechere sang an opening song. Chris Neff, the Community Development Officer of Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township, was also in attendance.
The students quickly put the classroom to use for the first time, peppering Ms. Della-Picca with questions as she explained the significance of the traditional Algonquin smudging that she conducted.
After the opening ceremony, Andy Trull of the Ottawa Valley Creative Arts Studio, continued the next phase of the school’s Place Names Inquiry with classes throughout the day.
Through the inquiry course, the Killaloe Public School students learn about the origins of the names of places in the area. The Place Names Inquiry course aims to help students explore and understand the history of the land and especially, the history of the Indigenous inhabitants of the land.
Jodi Recoskie, a teacher at the school, said the new outdoor classroom is an exciting development.
“Being able to be outside and appreciate this amazing space that we have… tying in our surroundings to our learning, it’s so much nicer to be out there and experiencing it rather than just opening a book,” she said. “It’s a new way to take on stewardship and ownership for the land and being role models for what good stewards are in the community.”
She said the space can also be used for events with guest speakers, making it easier to follow physical distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the school already has outdoor learning spaces, the new classroom boasts some important attributes.
“We actually have two other smaller outdoor classrooms,” Ms. Recoskie said. “This one is a little bit larger in scale and more durable. So, there are lots of spaces for the students.”
Christina Vietinghoff, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader