The Gleaner
Education

CVR inaugurates student-designed outdoor classrooms

In 2021, two groups of Grade 8 students came together to design outdoor classroom spaces as a project at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School. Public health measures at the time meant students were spending up to four periods per day in the same classroom, literally dreaming of going outside. Now, four years later and post-pandemic, two outdoor classrooms have officially been inaugurated and the students who were initially involved in the project have received their diplomas.

Teacher Marie-Ève Beaulieu-Demers recalls how her students gravitated toward the idea when it was first introduced, noting how the multidisciplinary project quickly became integrated into most subject areas. She admits it has been a long road, with a few bumps along the way, but is content her students have seen the project through and are leaving a legacy behind as a reminder of student effort and resilience.

“I wanted them to shine,” says Beaulieu-Demers of her students. “I knew it was hard during COVID, but I had such great groups of students, and they wanted to do something,” she explains. “They achieved so much in that year. Everyone got involved … The students were brilliant, and I saw it at graduation. I was so proud of them.”

The project also left its mark on the students, including Maurene O’Farrell, Téa Guérin Roy, and Odin Wania – they remember dividing the different tasks involved in the project, from fundraising, which involved organizing a silent auction and the creation of a recipe book, to the research and design process, making models, and documenting the whole process. “I remember doing that project more than I remember COVID,” says O’Farrell of that difficult time.

Following Grade 8, the project was met with delays as the prices for construction materials soared and the school saw a succession of administrative changes. “It was hard to solidify its place as a project in the school,” says O’Farrell, who admits they were a little disappointed when the buildings were first constructed, as they were not quite how they had imagined them.

The classrooms are both covered wooden structures with workspaces for students. One is located in a shaded area near the football field and track, while the other sits at the foot of one of the small hills bordering the parking lot on the other side of the campus.

 

Grade 11 students who initiated a project to design and build two outdoor classrooms when they were in Grade 8 at CVR took part in an inauguration ceremony on June 7 PHOTO Chateauguay Valley Regional High School

 

A handful of students began working on the project again in earnest this year. They added some picnic tables, cleaned up the spaces, and planted some trees. “Before it was more theoretical, and now we actually got to complete it, which I don’t think we actually thought would happen,” says O’Farrell, noting the fact that the structures are in place and will be used is satisfying.

“We do see people using them, and when we do, I can see that I was part of something important. I did the sketch for that,” says Guérin Roy.

CVR’s principal, Lynn Harkness, says it was a priority to inaugurate the classrooms before the students graduated, and has promised to continue with the project.

The school purchased a set of camping chairs for students to use this year, as well as rolling whiteboards for teachers, and garbage cans. “The school is funding and supporting the project in different phases. As we move forward, ideally, we would like to put some funds into permanent tables that cannot be destroyed by our friends that visit during the summers and evenings,” she explains, noting the spaces also benefit the community.

“I think there will be a celebration of what this cohort, this class of 2024, has accomplished,” says Harkness. “And although both designs did not turn out exactly the way that everybody wanted, we are happy to have these outdoor spaces, and we are very excited to build on them as we move forward.”

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