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MILWAUKEE – A Wisconsin teacher is creating an outdoor classroom that she hopes will ease parents’ concerns about sending their children back to school in the fall.

Lindsey Earle, a fourth grade teacher at Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, said the idea came from the school’s early childhood program, which has outdoor time in the mornings. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Earle said, the school had looked to create more of an outdoor learning environment.

“This year has been a catalyst for that because the air flow, we know, is so much better outside, and I guess from what we know right now that it (COVID-19) spreads less effectively outdoors than it does indoors,” Earle said. “We have a fairly large campus, so we can utilize that space to make the children 6 feet apart and learn outside.”

Earle said the school’s students will wear masks when social distancing can’t be maintained, whether indoors or outdoors.

Putting it together

Earle said she spent a month researching how to build the outdoor classroom, what materials would be needed and how much it would cost. She said the space is on the fast track to be finished by the time students return in September. Earle said she had help from a friend and an arborist, Chet Celenza and John Paczkowski of Core Sawmill.

Even Earle’s son Warren, 9, helped. The group cut 125 wood boards for the walls of the classroom. Celenza donated the raw wood, and the school picked up the cost of the posts and beams.

Earle said the classroom will be 12-sided, with panels set up in a circle about 8 feet in diameter. A canopy, or tented roof, will leave space between the walls and “roof” but will provide shelter from the weather. There will be a fire pit.

“Our plan is to actually be out there through the winter. Our students are used to being outside more often than not,” Earle said. “We do a lot outside. Right now, we’re committed to being outside for at least two periods a day, which would allow the children to have a break from the indoors.”

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