In December 2020, Austin Parks Foundation (APF) awarded grants to six Austin ISD schools to create new outdoor classroom areas. The following elementary schools received a grant for $2,000 each: Oak Springs, Pecan Springs, Andrews, Cook and Pickle. Gullett Elementary School received a matching “Challenge Grant” of $1,000 to help build an outdoor stage for the school and community.
"We are committed to enhancing the lives of all Austinites through our parks and green spaces. We’re honored to support our schools and community with these much-needed areas during the pandemic. Outdoor classrooms have immense mental and physical health benefits for kids and will have a great impact on the health of students and the city.”
Creating Safe Spaces for Distanced Gatherings
Most of the schools receiving grants are high-need campuses that have little to no existing outdoor learning infrastructure. The outdoor classroom areas will provide a safe space for students and the community. These new amenities will be joint-use sites, making them available outside of school hours for community use to hold outdoor meetings and distanced gatherings.
Working with PARD and AISD, as well as the principals from these campuses, locations were determined through collaboration and input on the most accessible sites for teachers and students. These grant projects were designed to be cost-effective and efficient, using prepared tree stumps and logs from a local vendor as well as limestone blocks placed on mulched areas prepared by volunteers with the hopes of completing the projects in a timely manner.
"This partnership is helping to support some of our campuses that have a high need for outdoor seating and infrastructure. As a direct response to COVID-19, the creation of outdoor learning spaces will provide teachers with the knowledge that they're supported by the community and encouraged to teach outside as much as possible to help reduce the risk of transmission."
Volunteers to Build Classrooms Early 2021
In early 2021, we'll begin prepping the sites and invite Austinites to join volunteer projects to lend a hand. The first outdoor classrooms will be built at Cook Elementary School, Odom Elementary School and Oak Springs School Park (hosted by Little Hummingbird Society)!
Our aim is to complete the outdoor classrooms by the end of February. Unfortunately, some of these volunteer events have been delayed due to weather and COVID-19 safety concerns. We're excited to get these projects done, but will have to wait until it's safe to do so. Stay tuned for more information and new project dates at austinparks.org/volunteer!