Former Emerson Middle student creates outdoor classroom

You can thank Henry Morrison for the eight benches in the new outdoor classroom at Emerson Middle School in Niles.

Morrison, a former Emerson student who's now a sophomore at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, organized the effort as an Eagle Scout capstone project. He did it to honor two science teachers, Charlene John and Jody Baty, who died in recent years.

"It's amazing to see a former Emerson Eagle giving back to the community and honoring beloved staff members," Principal Samantha Alaimo said in a news release. "Henry's contribution expands to the entire staff and student body, and allows for new learning opportunities at Emerson."

Former Emerson Middle School student Henry Morrison organized the construction of benches for an outdoor classroom at the school as an Eagle Scout project. Courtesy of Park Ridge-Niles District 64

Donations from Emerson staff and John's family helped fund the project.

John's widower, Clay Geschke, has a passion for woodworking and helped build the benches, which can be converted into tables. He assisted with other tasks, too.

"He was so helpful in every step of the process," Morrison said. "I couldn't have done this without him."

Other members of Morrison's Scout troop participated as well.

Morrison thinks John would've appreciated the project.

"She was bright, inspiring, and unconventional in the best way possible," Morrison said. "I hope, years from now, these benches will have helped several students experience a new approach to learning in a way Miss John would have enjoyed."

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