BUCKSPORT — The Bucksport Middle School recently held a grand opening for its new outdoor classroom, which was funded from a three-year $130,000 federal innovation grant.
Principal Todd West said all the students from the Students Taking Alternative Routes to Success (STARS) program had a hand in creating the structure.
“It’s going to be their space,” West said.
However, other middle school classrooms will be able to use the classroom, which will also be available on weekends for community use. Contact a STARS student about reserving the space, which includes a roof and several tables. The outdoor classroom is the same size as an indoor classroom, 24-by-24, West said.
The classroom is adjacent to the main parking lot at the school, which is for RSU 25’s fifth- through eighth-grade students.
The STARS students also helped design flower boxes that grace the exterior of the outdoor structure. They painted education-themed designs on the surface of each table inside the open-air classroom.
One math-themed design features plenty of question marks and a pun.
“Not all math problems are awful, just sum!”
Staff members said the students learned a lot from the project about being a team.
But, the project isn’t over.
West said there are plans to build an applied learning laboratory next to the outdoor learning space. The laboratory will include a greenhouse, a kitchen and an aquaponic system to grow fish, among other features.
The applied learning laboratory is being funded through a $250,000 federal grant through the Maine Department of Education’s Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures program. That program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maine was one of 11 states to receive the funding. So far locally, Regional School Unit 25 (RSU 25) and School Union 76 are two of the districts that have received a share of Maine’s $16.9 million provided through the U.S. Department of Education.
West said the funds need to be spent by the end of next June.