D.C. School Gets Green Outdoor Classroom

Earth Day Network recently completed the installation of an outdoor classroom at Yu Ying PCS Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The facility – a storm water pond observation deck with benches and a trough for collecting water samples – will also bolster the school’s application for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School Award.

For over a year, parents and teachers at Yu Ying have been cleaning up the area around the school, designating a two acre strip on the edge of the property as a “nature center” and turning it into a space that’s safe for children. But it had been hard to make one of the ecologically significant pieces of this land – a natural storm water runoff pond – accessible to the kids. A group of teachers and parents got together and suggested building a deck next to the pond to create an outdoor learning space for students to observe the water and the plants and animals living in it.  The school loved the concept but needed help funding and executing the project. That’s when Earth Day Network got involved.

The parents and teachers at Yu Ying were really motivated and already doing such great work, having planted a garden and installed a compost bin over the summer. When we heard they wanted to build an outdoor classroom where students could not only observe nature but actually interact with it, we knew we had to help.

And here’s the finished product:

Amy Quinn, International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Coordinator at Yu Ying said, "With this observation deck in place, our students will have unique hands-on educational experiences, interacting with the natural environment as often as they read about nature."

Students will start using the classroom in the spring of 2013, once the weather warms.

The project was made possible through a grant to Earth Day Network from Wells Fargo’s Clean Technology and Innovation Grant program

Earth Day Network, part of a small coalition of nonprofit organizations that helped the Department of Education create the Green Ribbon Schools program in 2011, also assisted Yu Ying with the Green Ribbon application process. The Green Ribbon recognizes schools that have made dramatic gains in both environmental literacy and reducing their carbon footprint while improving learning conditions.

The outdoor classroom at Yu Ying follows other school greening projects Earth Day Network completed around the United States in 2012. These include installing a biodiesel production and education facility at Henry Clay High School and planting an orchard at Locust Trace Agriscience Farm in Lexington, Ky.; designing and building an educational vegetable garden, rainwater catchment system, and butterfly garden at Furman L. Templeton Elementary School in Baltimore, Md.; and organizing a civic education program on water-runoff contamination at the Secondary Academy of Success in Bothell, Wash.

To learn more about our Green Schools Program, go to edu.earthday.org.