T.A. Dugger cuts ribbon on new outdoor classroom

Though the weather is getting colder by the day, students jump at the chance to escape the walls of their school whenever possible. This motivation led dozens of students to create a classroom they could enjoy outside just as much as they would inside, maybe even more.

Students gathered at T.A. Dugger Jr. High Thursday morning to celebrate the opening of the school’s new outdoor classroom.

The classroom comes from the school’s Gifted Program.

“This was a whole learning project,” Gifted teacher Rachel Arrowood said. “The kids have been working on this since January.”

The outdoor classroom patio sits near the baseball fields on the school campus, complete with several benches and tables, a whiteboard and even a sink.

They said the project came from a trip to Costa Rica in June of last year, when students got to see how different communities took full advantage of the space they had.

City Schools Superintendent Corey Gardenhour said the outdoor classroom is a significant benefit to the school.

“Our students are interested in improving their school,” Gardenhour said. “They wanted to do it themselves.”

This level of dedication is visible right at the beginning of the project. Elizabethton High School freshman Sam Hyder, who was part of the Gifted program last year, said the project started with a zero-dollar budget.

“Funding was difficult,” Hyder said. “We had no money.”

This forced the students to get creative in how they went about creating the outdoor classroom.

Gardenhour said the school worked to guide students throughout the process, including meetings with school officials to both propose and provide updates on the project since its inception in January.

In addition to learning about architectural design from professionals such as Missy Whitehead, Lowes donated the materials themselves, leading the students to Thursday’s ribbon-cutting.

“It is good to finally see the hard work we put into this,” Hyder said. “Sometimes we thought we would never finish.”

Once the materials came in, students and adults got together to do the majority of the construction over the summer.

The classroom has many applications, and the school in particular wants to use it to give hands-on ways of learning science.

Hyder said the classroom will serve as a reminder of how other students do not have to just be there to learn. They can do something to benefit other students, as well.

“They will always remember this,” Arrowood said.

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