Outdoor classrooms are new additions to Dunsmuir Elementary School

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Dunsmuir Elementary School students sit in one of the new outdoor classrooms created this semester for outside learning.

Dunsmuir Elementary School is moving some of its classes outside. 

With the help from a $10,000 grant from the Nancy Driscoll Foundation, Dunsmuir Rotary, and other community volunteers, there are now new classrooms for students that are outside. 

Kathleen Shirley, a paraprofessional at the school, is the brainchild behind the project where a few multi-level areas were logged in the woods out behind the school to be used as different classrooms. Using resources provided, tables and benches were built from the downed trees, and classroom areas were graveled for secure footing. 

Volunteers including Cindy and Len Foreman built signs, black, white, and clear chalk-like boards for the learning areas. JoAnne and Ed Steele made a xylophone that is tuned perfectly. 

Tables that also double for tic-tac-toe and chess games using painted rocks for the pieces are popular with the students. An abacus counter made from wiffle balls, a formicarium, ant, and worm farm set up for the students to work with under the trees has been a plus for the students. There's a mud table, a music area, a bamboo sensory walk, a bird condo, and a covered class area for all the students to learn in all kinds of weather.

Working on a few Saturdays since January, even the students have participated in turning this idea into a reality. The students are making cards for the native species board and will be creating a large spiderweb between two trees with yarn. 

"Many of these ideas came from Pinterest," said Shirley. "This project would not be possible without all the volunteers from the Dunsmuir Rotary and community members."

Eighth-grader Haze Brill says, “I really enjoy this outdoor classroom. Just hanging out inside in a classroom just doesn't do it for me.”

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Student Abby Camacho says, “Once I have kids and they go to this school and use this outside classroom, I will feel that all this hard work was worth it. And to use it how it was made to be used was worth all the hard work we put into it.” 

Another student, MacKenzie Linebarger says, “It definitely was a lot of work carrying everything up the hill to build this, but it is probably one of our greatest achievements and will benefit future students. It is so important to have an outdoor classroom like this. I didn't think much of it at first, but it really turned into an awesome place for learning.” 

There will be a dedication gathering on Wednesday,  May 28 where the students that have been raising caterpillars will release them as butterflies for the occasion.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.