SPOTSWOOD – Memorial Middle School in Spotswood is home to 336 students and 42 teachers. Since the addition and expansion of the building in 2004, the school was left with a large outdoor space. Paraprofessional Kelly Bella and nurse Katherine Shkolar researched the benefits of the creation of an outdoor learning environment, finding several powerful arguments suggesting the positive personal, social and educational opportunities to take students beyond their immediate indoor environment. It was found that students who are taught in an outdoor setting had better test scores, higher grade point averages, decreased behavior problems, and reduced symptoms of distractibility, according to information provided by the Spotswood Education Foundation (SEF).
The two, after collaborating with Principal Brian Kitchin, decided to reach out to the SEF for possible funding of the project through a grant application. Over the past 12 years, the SEF has funded more than 127 grants totaling over $78,000 – providing support for program enhancements at all levels. A grant totaling $11,825 was given to Memorial for the project.
Kitchin organized a 3 vs. 3 basketball game in order to initiate fundraising for the start of the project. A Dine to Donate event at Moe’s Southwest Grill in East Brunswick was also held on Nov. 13.
From Aug. 2-8, plans were designed, and Fiorello Landscaping was hired to do the project, according to the statement. Stone, sod and a path were in place within a matter of six days.
The PTA donated tables and benches for the area, along with staff members donating whiteboards, more benches and tables, and their tireless efforts to sand, stain and prepare the wood for assembly in an effort to create two separate learning spaces.
At the completion of the project, Fiorello Landscaping planted six golden euonymus shrubs as a gesture of their gratitude for being chosen to be part of such an amazing project, according to the statement.
On Oct. 21, Memorial held a ribbon cutting ceremony to formally open the SEF Outdoor Learning Environment. The blue and white ribbon was cut by the school president, eighth grade student Tyler Quesnel.