Student’s Vision for Outdoor Classroom

Student’s Vision for Outdoor Classroom
Posted on 05/14/2019
Student’s Vision for Outdoor Classroom

An outdoor classroom is creating a lot of excitement at Badger High School as the warmer weather is finally making an appearance. Senior Matthew Geils was the only student this year in Leadership Dynamics (LD) for Seniors, a class that is a rigorous strategic planning and community organizing program. He took LD as an independent study under Ms. Emily Koltz who has been involved with other aspects of the Badger Leadership Dynamics program for a few years.

 

In the past, the class has had a group of students who undertook projects with a team approach. “I taught it this year as an independent study for only one student, but the results have been worth it,” she stated.

 

Collectively Geils and Koltz came up with the idea of an outdoor classroom by looking at ways to make improvements around the school. They found an underused area and got to work. “Since I began going to Badger four years ago, I have never seen anyone in this courtyard before and thought that it would be a great idea to try to make some improvements,” Matthew said. “Also, throughout my four years at Badger, one of my biggest complaints is not being able to go outside very often. As many students love to spend more time outside, an outdoor classroom is a great way to have a controlled outdoor environment.”

 

Koltz concurs, “The outdoor classroom will provide an alternate learning space for all teachers and students. Being outside while learning has been proven to reduce student behavioral referrals (not only during that hour, but the next) while simultaneously increasing their motivation and retention of knowledge.”

 

In order to make the outdoor classroom possible, Geils created the plans for the project and got them approved by the school, after which he began fundraising by selling Senior Shirts, hosting a dodgeball tournament, hosting a dinner at Lake Geneva Simple Cafe, and getting donations from civic organizations and others. After raising the money he was able to buy the materials. “With the help of the custodial department and the help of my parents and a few of their employees, we were able to assemble the courtyard,” he said.

 

The courtyard is equipped with several convertible tables which can easily be changed into benches. Geils joked that the first of the tables took forever to assemble and then the rest were pretty easy.

 

“Needless to say, I am impressed with his work ethic, his problem solving skills, his ability to communicate effectively, and his dedication to building a better community,” Koltz declared.

 

Geils hopes to benefit future students by allowing their teachers to take them outside more often and to help make better use of previously unused space in the school, giving students additional learning facilities. He says the outdoor classroom project has taught him many different skills ranging from project planning to project fundraising to project assembly. “Specifically, I have learned the importance of having good project plans before beginning to take action on our project. Additionally, I have learned how to get the proper approval for both fundraisers and the classroom project,” he said.

 

Both Geils and Koltz are grateful for support from community organizations, businesses and individuals who helped with fundraising, discounted products and labor: National Honor Society and Ms. Shotliff, Simple Cafe - for hosting a fundraiser dinner donating generous proceeds, Lake Geneva Jaycees - for providing a monetary donation towards the purchase of a table for the teacher and materials (pending), Home Depot - for providing a discount on materials and goods; Small Load Specialties, Geils Farms - for monetary donations and volunteer labor, Lake Geneva Schools Administration, Badger Principal Russ Tronsen, Scott Rieff and Tim Sireno with the Custodial Staff - for approval and assistance throughout the year to help this project come to fruition.

 

Next year Geils plans to attend the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse where he will study accounting and finance. 


Outdoor Classroom
Badger senior Matthew Geils and Leadership Dynamics instructor Emily Koltz.


Outdoor Classroom
The outdoor classroom provides ample, convertible seating and a whiteboard. The space is mulched and easily accessible to all teachers.


Geils Outdoor Classroom
Geils demonstrates how the tables can be converted to benches for flexible seating options in the outdoor learning environment.


Geils Outdoor Classroom


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