Redfish Elementary held a ceremony on June 8 to open its new outdoor classroom. Photo submitted

Redfish Elementary unveils new outdoor classroom

The community project took four years and $40,000 to realize

After four years of working to make Redfish Elementary’s new outdoor classroom a reality, principal Janene Stein will only get less than a month to enjoy the finished product.

Of course, her students will benefit from it for years to come.

The school unveiled the new structure on June 8. Designed by timber framer Joern Wingender, the space is a adjacent to a salmon spawning channel in the forest across from the school.

Stein said the $40,000 project is the result of a major fundraising effort by the school, parents and businesses.

“When you ask your community for things, they will say yes,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

The building is open on three of its four sides, has sky lighting and can be used in the winter. It sits on a concrete pad that used to hold a kiosk with information about the spawning channel, but had been torn down prior to Redfish Elementary being constructed in the 1980s.

The space became the obvious spot for Stein’s long-desired outdoor classroom, and was later made available to the school by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The project was supported by the Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, parent fundraising and donations that included labour by Wingender’s company Traditional Timber Framing Company Inc., as well as Edge Roofing.

Because the structure is not on school district property, it’s open to community use.

Stein said the new classroom fits in with Redfish’s goal of outside learning.

“So it doesn’t necessarily have to even be about things you are doing outside, it’s just taking your learning outside,” she said.

“The kids have these little stools that they sit on or they can put their books on and can do their reading or writing or math in this covered space. But they can also go outside to that space as well to do outside learning.”

Stein herself won’t have long to appreciate the classroom. She’s been transferred to take over as principal of Hume School next fall, but she’s satisfied her vision was realized before having to say her goodbyes.

“There’s so much research showing you love what you know, and these kids love that outdoor space,” said Stein. “We need to appreciate it. It calms their brains, it’s self-regulating for them, it creates good memories for them and then it will really help us with the rest of what we need to do on this gorgeous planet.”

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