Toll Gate Grammar School officials are being aided in their efforts to build an outdoor classroom by a $10,000 grant from Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS).
FoHVOS’s grant comes from the pharmaceutical company Janssen and will help to create and enhance the classroom, according to FoHVOS Executive Director Lisa Wolff.
“The grant is to build the outdoor classroom closer to the Toll Gate school building, which will also lead into botanical project that Pennington Borough is doing. This should be built sometime in the spring,” Wolff said. “The grant won’t cover the entire project. It is like seed money to get most of it going and others will contribute to it.”
She explained that every time they have helped create community conservation projects such as this, the outside community is motivated to join in.
“This outdoor classroom has been in the works for us,” Wolff said. “The outdoor classrooms are part of the district’s green initiatives. This has been in the works as part of our community conservation program.”
Toll Gate Principal Jane-Ellen Lennon said the school is laying down the groundwork for the construction of the outdoor classroom, but that there is not a set final date for completion.
“We are going to be designing and building it this spring and probably finishing its completion next fall,” Ellen Lennon said. “We certainly are so appreciative of FoHVOS and their grant definitely helps lay down the groundwork and the beginning phases of this project.”
Toll Gate officials will call the outdoor classroom an outdoor learning space.
“It will be multi-purpose and be able to serve a full class size. It will also be able to serve small groups, enrichment clubs and even class grade levels,” Ellen Lennon said. “This will be an area where a lot of activities can happen.”
An expected class size at Toll Gate is between 22-26 students, according to school officials.
“The students can have more of a hands on approach to learning more about the environment as part of our green efforts and sustainability; we want to create real life experiences for the students,” Ellen Lennon said. “This outdoor learning space will allow for them to do that.”
Toll Gate officials do not have a set cost amount for the project’s completion yet, but said they are very appreciative of the FoHVOS’s grant.
“As we are building through the different phases of the outdoor learning space, we will have a better idea of the amount needed to finish the project. We will be looking at all types of flexible seeding and gardening for the space,” Ellen Lennon explained.
The school has a concept plan and have a beginning idea for the outdoor classroom, according to officials.
“We right now are trying to finalize the foundation of the plan,” Ellen Lennon said.
School officials reported that there will be a white board and classroom materials inside the learning space.
“This is really important because the school district actually changed, they have STEM coordinators at each school and are now imbedding the STEM curriculum into all of the science curriculum,” Wolff said. “I think this classroom is an important part of the day to day base learning and is also really important especially when you think about climate change and how the earth is changing.”