It takes a village to create an outdoor classroom, and for the students and staff at Redfish Elementary School, they are ready to get outside and throw a party for their village!
June 8th will mark the official opening of the Redfish Elementary Outdoor Classroom. A project that began as an idea when Principal Janene Stein first asked her neighbour and timber framer, Joern Wingender, how much it would cost to put a roof over an old existing concrete pad in the forest opposite the school grounds.
The project idea quickly grew into a community plan that would involve everyone from the students themselves, to the parents, local businesses and volunteers, regional funding organizations, provincial non- profit conservancy agencies and Government Ministry management branches.
Four years and $40K of funds raised later, an exceptionally unique timber structure, equipped with skylights for natural lighting and generous overhang to maximize coverage, is about to become a community-centred learning environment for generations to come. At 1 p.m. on June 8, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will commemorate the incredible efforts of all the contributors involved.
The structure’s design evolved out of a process similar to Janene’s intuition to go out into the woods and see what is already there. The concrete pad was the sole remnant of an old interpretive centre building that once existed alongside Redfish Creek spawning channel. The original structure had been torn down before the school was built in the early 1980s and since it was not on official school district property, negotiations were required with the land conservancy and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Once the land was approved for use, Joern, a timber framer by trade and President of the Harrop Community Forest, instilled his sustainable philosophies and architectural vision for the structure and integrated naturally curved wood into the design. “Curved trees are normally burned in the bush, as they are not valued by the forest industry.” explains Joern, “But I think this is an important message for our children, we need to start to connect our consumption of wood with what the forest offers, rather than simply treating the forest as a resource to exploit.”
Environmental stewardship and sustainability are themes that the students at Redfish Elementary will regularly learn about in their new outdoor setting with its proximity to the forest trails and spawning channel. However, through the actualization of this unique project, they will also see the value that comes with collaboration.
“It isn’t just a school structure, it is for everyone in the entire community to enjoy and make use of.” says Principal Stein. Noting that a large amount of the funds raised came from the Columbia Basin Trust and the Regional District of Central Kootenay in the form of community development grants. “And we couldn’t have done it without our amazing parent volunteers that fundraised and found additional sponsors.”
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Christine Perkins, Superintendent/Chief Executive Officer