Classroom without walls taking shape

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A different educational idea is becoming reality on the Eureka Springs High School campus.

An outdoor classroom will serve students throughout the district, providing a place for messy experiments, nature projects, and other forms of hands-on learning. High School Principal David Gilmore said the classroom should be completed by the end of the school year.

The building will enclose almost 1,000 square feet. Although it has a roof, three large overhead doors allow the south side to open almost completely. Double doors on the two ends add to the outdoor experience. A pavilion would have more of an outdoor feel, but this compromise creates a year-round asset for the school. A deck will take full advantage of the outdoor experience, offering a beautiful view toward Lake Lucerne.    

“Eureka Springs has talked about something like this for a long time,” Gilmore said. He had created a similar project when he taught at Berryville, and this classroom will serve the district in many ways. “It’s good to have a place to do things you just can’t do in a standard classroom,” he said.

Even before the building becomes operational, it is already serving as an educational tool. Carson Mowrey, a junior at ESHS, is interested in architecture. He was able to spend independent study time with Josh Siebert at Modus Studio in Fayetteville. Mowrey submitted a design for the building as an EAST Lab project, and when Gilmore told him that the school planned to use his design, he thought at first that the principal was joking.

The building trades students who work on the building are “paid” with funds they can accrue toward their state and national skills competitions at the end of the year. The Ag classes have built some raised beds for a butterfly garden, and for growing vegetables.

Gilmore said the outdoor classroom would continue to evolve. Solar energy may power the building next year, and the school may add a weather station. More raised beds will eventually allow individual classes to maintain a bed.

The principal also explained some of the planning that went into this project, and credited a committee which included Skills teacher Jason Hill, Ag teacher Jason McAfee, and EAST Instructor Adam Louderback. “We discussed this last school year and went into the design and planning stage,” he said. “I knew this was the right group to work with to make a project like this possible.” Gilmore also noted the continuing support of Supt. Bryan Pruitt and the school board.