Sonnie Hereford Elementary Holds Dedication Ceremony for New Outdoor Classroom
Students, faculty, community members, and district staff all gathered in the beautiful new outdoor classroom at Sonnie Hereford Elementary to dedicate the space to learning and creativity, as well as to honor all the hard work that went into making the space a reality. Students sang, played violin, and gave guided tours of the area to visitors, which included a brief appearance by one of the inhabitants of the space – a turtle.
The outdoor classroom offers students a variety of enrichment activities that tie into everything from Science and Technology, to Engineering and Mathematics. It also teaches students about their environment and natural resources. The outdoor classroom at Sonnie Hereford includes a pond ecosystem, a weather station, a sensory station, and even a butterfly garden. Miss Dollie Jackson, a teacher at Sonnie Hereford Elementary, says that the space offers students “a good way […] to learn and get excited about learning.” According to April Waltz, the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Programs Coordinator for the Alabama Wildlife Federation, “we want them to understand the importance of wildlife and our natural resources, and for them to draw connections between their environment and the environment of wildlife.”
Ms. Waltz also spoke about the importance of the community in projects like this, saying “it’s the local support that helps not only to create the outdoor classroom, but to maintain it.” Local organizations, such as OurBluebirdTrails.org, Wild Birds Unlimited, and Across the Pond, among others, all contributed to help make the space a reality for the students at Sonnie Hereford Elementary School.
Sherita Joiner-Pryor, the TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) for Sonnie Hereford, added that the outdoor classroom also provides a calming, de-escalating space that can even be used for counseling sessions. In her words, “we’re trying to reach the whole child.” She continued, saying that she hopes the students can use it as “a place of escape, to just mellow out.” In the end, she hopes the students can use the space to find peace in what can be an otherwise tumultuous life for some.
Currently, over 300 schools in the state of Alabama are using outdoor classroom sites through the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program. For more information on the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program, visit the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s website.