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Matt Elementary creating outdoor classroom
Matt Elementary SEED WEB
Students Engaged in Exploration and Discovery, or SEED, first began as a vision to create an outdoor, hands-on learning experience for students. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

NORTH FORSYTH -- A new classroom is coming to Matt Elementary School, and it is different than a typical learning setting.

The school’s newest addition will be an outdoor classroom, its first stage expected to be finished in about a month.

It has been a project in the works for more than a year, said Jamie Barnes, assistant principal at the school on Wallace Tatum Road in north Forsyth, but construction is finally beginning at the school.

Students Engaged in Exploration and Discovery, or SEED, first began as a vision to create an outdoor, hands-on learning experience for students.

“This is truly coming from the teachers – they are the ones guiding this,” Barnes said. “We’ve had the idea for well over a year now, and the first thing we did was form a team of teachers. The PTA is also heavily involved.”

The classroom will be located in a currently unused area within school grounds and will include walking paths and covered areas for shade and seating alongside the classroom area.

The idea, Barnes said, it to engage students in hands-on learning.

“Our kids deserve it,” she said. “They deserve to have learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom [and] they deserve a setting that enables them to learn through discovery, problem solving and through curiosity. And playing and leading outside is fun.

“We also want them to make connections between their learning and the community in which they live and learn. Being able to watch kids learning in that environment and having them totally engaged in their own learning, that’s what it’s all about.”

The outdoor learning area will expose students to hands-on farming opportunities, such as harvesting fruit and vegetables from raised garden plots, teach them about ecosystems and life cycles of both plants and animals native to the north Georgia area, call them to interact with the sensory garden and show them that science, math, art, music and technology can be found and utilized in the school’s backyard.

In addition, students will learn responsibility; they will care for and maintain a small chicken coop and flock.

History, too, will come to life, Barnes said.

A “historical barn structure” and small, makeshift water mill will embody the school’s history and every grade level and discipline will utilize SEED in individual ways.

The goal, Barnes said, is to encourage students to ask questions, think, reflect and explore through hands-on inquiry and problem-based learning.

“It’s pretty exciting for Matt Elementary — we’re very excited,” Barnes said. “It’s taken us a little while to get here, but the teachers just kept working and no one gave up, and the first phase should be completed in the spring.”