WHITMAN — Going outside will no longer be reserved for recess alone at Conley Elementary School.
Thanks to $20,000 raised by the school’s Parent Advisory Council at an annual basket raffle fundraiser, a school courtyard has been transformed into an outdoor classroom.
“This we see as making science come alive for kids,” said Principal Karen Downey as she hosted a reception Monday, Aug. 29 for PAC members, school officials and representatives from businesses who worked on the project. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, the Board of Selectmen voted to officially approve the renovation project.
“Principal Downey is thrilled with the design and is looking forward to putting it in place before weather prevents the kids from using it,” Town Administrator Frank Lynam told selectmen. “They do plan to use it all year long. They will also use it in winter. It looks like a pretty interesting way to present some information to classes in kind of a fun way.”
Lynam thanked the Conley PAC parents for taking the step toward developing the space.
An easel inside the doorway to the enclosed courtyard displayed photos outlining the project’s success — and work yet to be done on it — during the reception.
“We can bring a class out [and] have quiet reading or writing. We can have snack over there,” Downey said, gesturing to picnic tables in a corner covered with shading material, as guests arrived.
Raised planters are also included along one wall for science projects, with a table in one corner for students to use in writing their observations. Another area offers space for quiet reflection in an alcove where a water feature is still to be added. It has already been recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
“It’s such a joy to be able to do something really special for the kids,” she said.
Carin Gosselin, a Landscape Architect from Norwell, donated her time and services to design and create a space where students can learn and explore, according to Downey.
“Carin met with me and Steve Mucci several times to hear our vision for the space and see or ideas,” Downey said. “She then drew up professional plans and enlisted the help of Curtis Farm Landscaping.”
John and Jared Curtis led their team to transform the space in three days following Carin’s plans, according to Downey. Jeff Palaza from Palaza and McDonough Tree Service donated 25 tree stumps to be used as student seating in the story circle. Marc Frisoli of Frisoli Electric donated spools that will be used for work tables. Mucci, and parent Matt Carew, “spent hours on a very hot, very humid Saturday afternoon building raised beds for planting and a bridge for our reflective garden path,” she said. “Steve Mucci also designed and created a teacher chair that is absolutely a piece of art for our story circle.”
She stressed that none of the work would be possible without the help of the Conley School community, led by the PAC.
“Our annual basket auction, chaired by Lynne Walton and Pam Codero, brought in $20,000 which was used to create this space for our students,” Downey said. Teachers and staff members made baskets and volunteered the night of the auction, kids and families donated items, services and baskets, and families took time to attend.
“For every raffle ticket purchased and every auction bid, families contributed to our new Outdoor Classroom,” she said. “This was truly a labor of love.”