New Outdoor Learning Structure for Rochester School

New Outdoor Learning Structure for Rochester School

From Char Gardner

Friends of The School is raising money to replace storm damaged classroom tents with a much more robust structure of wood and fiberglass to be used for outdoor learning at The Rochester School.

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A special appeal for the safety of our children and teachers in Covid times, from Friends of The School in partnership with the Rochester PTO…

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont schools were placed under tremendous pressure to continue to provide effective education while maintaining a safe environment for students and teachers.  The challenges, as we know, are fairly severe—mask wearing, distancing, disinfecting, temperature checks, monitoring symptoms, and communicating with parents—all while trying to teach active and restless children.

One of the most effective responses to teaching during the pandemic has been outdoor classrooms. The risk of contracting the coronavirus diminishes dramatically outdoors — a review of 7,000 cases in China recorded only one instance of fresh-air transmission, according to the New York Times. Outdoor teaching was used widely and successfully during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, and schools across the United States have been experimenting with one form or another.

In Rochester, metal framed tents were purchased and set up around the school at the onset of the pandemic. Amy Braun’s kindergarten/first grade class made extensive use of theirs, expanding her already established outdoor learning program, and her colorful tent classroom became an endearing landmark to anyone walking in the fields behind the school. But, while effective in mild weather, the weight of Vermont’s snow and ice proved too much for the structures.

Friends of The School is a small group of concerned citizens raising money to purchase a much more robust structure of wood and fiberglass, constructed with a unique load-bearing strut system, designed and built here in Rochester by Greg Ryan and his son, Aidan, with structural review and input by local engineer Kricket McCusker. These remarkable structures can be assembled by volunteers, disassembled and moved if required, or may stay in place for many years of use.

The RyanTruss structure provides a year-round portable canopy, a Covid safe outdoor space ideal for school use. The wood frame allows plenty of places to put hooks for children's backpacks and coats and its large overhangs provide dry internal bays for teachers’ supplies.  The open and light filled structure, provides an inspiring space to learn and teach. The design geometry is a math class in itself and could be used for S.T.E.M. learning.

Remarkably cost effective for its strength and durability, the RyanTruss' unique geometry offers maximum strength with minimal materials. Also, its translucent roof creates an inviting space and its outward leaning walls can create a seat-back for built-in benches.  With a steeply pitched roof to shed snow for year-round use in Vermont, its graceful and pleasing design brings to mind covered bridges and traditional timber frames, in harmony with the our Green Mountain landscape.

The price of the basic structure is $5,500 assembled on site by volunteers, with guidance by Greg and Aidan Ryan. It is important to keep in mind that these structures will have a useful life after the pandemic, as outdoor learning has been shown to be effective in general use. For a relatively small cost, we can provide a beautiful space to be used and enjoyed by our children for years to come.

One RyanTruss has already been purchased and donated to the Rochester Stockbridge Unified School District. The funds we seek now would allow for the purchase of a second structure, so that each school will have one. Hopefully, more will be added.

So please be as generous as you can, to help our schools to continue with their outdoor education program, by donating here on Fundly 

—> or by sending a check made out to the Rochester PTO, with “Shelter” in the subject line and mailed to Char Gardner, 294 S. Main Street, Rochester VT, 05767.

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