Reese Elementary School in process to make outdoor classroom, playground

IMG_0038 (1)School’s out for Reese Elementary School students – well at least for two and a half hours – and they get that time as part of their learning experience.

Construction has started for the outdoor classroom and play area called the Nature Playground, specifically made for Reese Elementary students in the Great Start Readiness Program.

The concept was developed by GSRP instructor Terie Elbers of Reese who received a grant for more than $17,000 from the Frankenmuth Credit Union Foundation For Our Communities to fund the project that will include a playhouse, climbing mound and sand pit to help students explore outdoors.

“I wanted to have something special for the kids and made especially for them,” said Elbers.

Construction is expected to be complete in April so the children can experience the classroom in spring. All students and members of the community will have access to the playground when it is not in use by the preschoolers.

Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), is a course for four-year-olds, and is a Michigan Department of Education state-funded preschool program. According to michigan.gov, students in the program may experience factors that could place them at risk of educational failure.

This project started a year ago when Elbers began taking her students outside during the school day. She began researching an early childhood learning approach, Reggio Emilia, developed in Italy after World War II by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi.

The approach believes in a child’s first years, he or she should be an active participant while learning in a significant environment complete with materials including clay, paint and writing implements, according to education.com.

“My parents have had many compliments on the kids being outside so much and really enjoying being outside so, it’s just a different flare for our program,” she said. “Everyone has different ideas.”

Elbers said students go outside each day for two-and-a-half hours – in rain, snow or sunshine. Outside, the children make up their own games as they interact. This week, Elbers recalls students played in the snow while it was 12 degrees outside and created their own games.

“They’re so creative – as a teacher watching the kids learn and experience new things and how they create, it’s really pretty neat. And the kids do love it.”

Elbers wrote the grant proposal to receive funding from the Frankenmuth Credit Union and according to the document, the classroom will be the first of its kind in the Tuscola Intermediate School District. An update on the project was presented at Reese Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday where Superintendent Keith Wetters informed the board about  progress of construction. Nick’s Construction L.L.C. of Reese, project surveyor, found a fiber line in the ground while digging.

“Luckily Nick and his crew stopped, called me, called Terie Elbers and said ‘Hey, we don’t want to do anything, we pulled out some blueprints … we believe it was old fiber prior to 2001 that may have been going into the old middle school,’” Wetters said at the meeting.

Contractors on the project include Nick’s Construction, and Zach Osantowski Builder L.L.C. which will erect a 18-by-30-inch shed and volunteers from the village will participate in creating other parts of the classroom.

Elbers said she currently doesn’t know how many volunteers will participate in the project, but some include Reese Adventure Club at Reese High School that will put up a fence separating the sidewalk from the playground.

Kristine Krieger, principal at Reese Elementary School, said the idea is a wonderful plan initiated by Elbers that would allow students in a school grades preschool through fifth grade to have an area designated for them.

“Definitely it’s wonderful,” said Krieger. “Definitely the GSRP encourages students to be in the outdoors and what’s nice about it is they’ll have their separate place because our building is preschool through fifth (grade).”

For more information or to donate to the project, contact Elbers at telbers@reese.k12.mi.us or call Reese Elementary School at 989-868-4561.

Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at debanina@tcadvertiser.com

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