WEST PARIS — Students at Agnes Gray Elementary School have been watching construction of a building for environmental classes in their backyard.

The 16- by 20-foot timber-framed structure will serve about 100 students as part of the Outdoor Classroom Initiative. The five-year project is supported by Agnes Gray staff, headed by Principal Elizabeth Clarke, third-grade teacher Betsey Cooper and PTO members.

The project includes hands-on teaching, an active, socially healthy recess program,  school gardens and a trail system accessed directly behind the school, according to the school’s GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/maine-outdoor-classroom-building.

Clarke said the project involved volunteers, including Gould Academy’s Reachout community service organization in Bethel, which constructed the timber frame under the supervision of teachers Pete Hedden and Chris Hayward. Chris Barstow, who has a timber harvesting business in Woodstock and a farm in Bethel, designed the building. Volunteer students from the Outing Club and others also helped build the classroom off site.

Others have donated time, materials and finances.

Oxford Hills Technical School’s second- and third-year building construction technology students were also involved. Instructor Dan Daniels and trade assistant Cimeron Colby supervised the students during a warm day in late February.

The students have installed a live-edge pine board facing to give a more rustic look for the exterior. The wavy siding meant they had to do some reconfiguring before installation, student Dawson Stevens said.

“They make mistakes but that’s how they learn,” Daniels said.

Building Trades 3 students involved in the project are Dawson Stevens, Austin Canning, Jamal Hill, Talon Medeiros; from Building Trades 2, Keegan Chase, William Carrol, Nick Graham, Jensen Kennison, Emmanuel Farrington and Andrew Wilson-Bourque.

Each year, the building trades students tackle a major project. This year, Daniels said, they have been working with the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond to build cabins to replace old canvas tents.

Daniels said participation in the building trades, like others the school offers, has been up and down over the years. Next year, it expects to fill all 32 spots.

[email protected]

Sarah Timm’s students at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris watch building trades students from Oxford Hills Technical School in Paris finish a classroom for environmental studies in West Paris. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

The interior of the environmental classroom building at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris shows the timber frame, pegged eight-by-eight trusses and clear roofing. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

Wavy pine siding cover the outdoor classroom building at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris. Clear roofing panels allow for a sunlit interior. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

Building trades students from Oxford Hills Technical School in Paris finish the outdoor classroom building at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: