By the Santa Barbara Unified School District
The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the construction of a new outdoor classroom at Harding University Partnership School.
The project transforms a play space into an outdoor classroom space. The project’s architect included a Dimensions Educational Research Foundation team that helped create a “Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom Conceptual Plan.” This project is a proof of concept and an initial phase of the Early Learning Plan “Project H.O.P.E+S” — funded through a grant awarded to SBUSD from First 5 of Santa Barbara. This long-term grant ultimately aims to provide 21st-century learning environments at all elementary schools.
In addition to the outdoor classroom, the grant includes the development of STEAM labs which will work in concert with the outdoor classrooms. With one supporting the other, students will learn through inquiry-based, hands-on, and collaborative learning to increase student outcomes across the district.
“We are excited to see this project move forward,” said Veronica Binkley, principal at Harding Partnership School. “This project will help us innovate new ways to engage students with the latest methods to teach students science, technology, engineering, art, and music in a variety of settings both within the STEAM classroom and in the outdoor classroom.”
The project was approved at the Tuesday, November 15, school board meeting. The vote awarded the $395,346 construction project to Hanly Engineering Corp. The project was paid for by $100,000 from the First 5 Early Learning Plan Grant, $100,000 from a Women’s Fund Grant, $70,000 from SBUSD California State Preschool Program, $20,000 from the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, $16,000 from HUPS Unrestricted Lottery Account, and $89,346 from Developer Fees (Fund 25).
“We want to thank the amazing Principal Binkley for her vision and relentless support for student learning, along with gratitude for our staff and community partners for making this project possible,” said Dr. Hilda Maldonado, the district’s superintendent. “We look forward to seeing this outdoor classroom enhance learning at Harding. As we seek ways to meet the needs of all learners, a project like this is a model for enriched learning opportunities.
“Students who are learning a second language, and students with disabilities, benefit from hands-on learning experiences that generate rich language and develop deep knowledge. This space will achieve such a learning environment.”
The project will begin within the week before Winter Break, and the demolition of the current space will be completed while students are not on campus. The construction will take 60 days to complete.