Barrington District 220 looking at idea of outdoor classroom
Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members have given an early thumbs-up to an idea of creating an outdoor classroom.
Under the tentative proposal, the outdoor learning space would be in a conservation area just west of Hart Road across from Barrington High School's stadium. The project would be on a portion of undeveloped land that District 220 owns west of Hart.
District 220's assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, John Bruesch, said during a recent presentation the goal is to launch the outdoor laboratory in the 2021-22 academic year. He said the project could cost up to $750,000, with public and private funding sources covering the tab.
At a meeting this week, the District 220 board indicated a willingness to set aside $50,000 in the current summer projects budget for a surveyor and consultant to define the scope of what could be done on the Hart Road property. Formal approval is needed for the proposed expenditure.
District 220 board member Penny Kazmier said the private Barrington 220 Education Foundation could become a funding source "for things down the road." She said the district's initial $50,000 commitment could help the private fundraising efforts.
"If the district were to start down this path and maybe make some investment on our own, then the foundation and perhaps some other groups in the community would be more apt to fund and favorably work with us on this project," Kazmier said.
Bruesch said the outdoor classroom would afford students an opportunity to receive practical and hands-on applications of scientific principles within their community. He said the Barrington Area Conservation Trust and Citizens for Conservation, both nonprofit organizations, have agreed to help in the planning and use of the space.
"We don't see this as just Barrington 220 property that we would be improving, but it would also be space the entire community could use and value," Bruesch said. "So, having young kids myself, I can tell you that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would love this. They could get a few merit badges going through there."
He added the students could become "citizen scientists" who learn more about the natural world and how they contribute to it. There also could be curriculum connections, such as having students research the purification potential of wetland plants and the effect on stream quality as part of life-science studies.
Through a combination of purchases and donations, District 220 acquired about 67 acres west of Hart Road and across from Barrington High School from 2014 to 2015.