Grandville school utilizes outdoor spaces as classrooms

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A school in Grandville is taking the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to move classes outdoors. 

Students at Grandville Public Schools started classes on Aug. 24. Administrators at South Elementary on Navaho Street say about 350 of their 450-plus students returned for in-person learning this year.

In order to keep students socially distanced, South Elementary is now using outdoor spaces as fully functioning classrooms. 

“When COVID hit, we didn’t panic. We knew that we had outdoor spaces. We knew that we could utilize them, and so we really just figured out a plan of how best to do that,” said Principal Darla England. 

The school started a garden directly next to their building about five years ago. They also created an outdoor classroom in the wooded area behind the school. The school says students have always used the spaces, but since the pandemic hit, they’ve made outdoor learning more routine. 

A garden at South Elementary School in Grandville that is being used as an outdoor classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sept. 17, 2020)

“It’s just a completely different experience when a child can taste and touch and smell and see and hear,” said parent Amy Gardine, who helped to start the garden years ago. 

The school says every single student has the opportunity to use the outdoor spaces every day. Students are able to learn about insects and plant reproduction among many other subjects. 

A garden at South Elementary School in Grandville that is being used as an outdoor classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sept. 17, 2020)

“I’m so excited for them to have this. Not only my kids but everyone else to experience what horticulture has to offer,” said parent Andrea Shingledecker, who helps out in the garden. 

England says while the pandemic has made many things uncertain, the outdoor classrooms have definitely helped students get excited about learning.

“It’s been an interesting year. It’s been a different year, but these kinds of experiences have still made it a blessing,” England said.

South Elementary says students will continue using the garden and outdoor classrooms during the winter months.