PITTSTON — Third grader Drake Ahearn took a break from reading to a kindergarten student to gaze up at the posts and beams making up the roof of his school’s new outside classroom.

“There’s really good structure to this building,” he said.

Drake said he wished the cement slab floor were smoother, but otherwise he was glad that teachers allowed their weekly Book Buddies reading time to take place outside.

“It’s a good thing because you get fresh air instead of being cooped up in a building,” he said.

More reading time, science lessons and planting for the school’s annual plant sale are among the activities that staff members at Pittston Consolidated School envision for the outside classroom this year.

The structure was completed earlier this month, the culmination of a long process.

“We’ve been trying now for five years to get this project completed,” Principal Shelly Simpson said.

“Somehow, things have fallen through, whether funding or volunteers or being able to get someone to actually construct the classroom. It was a larger project than we had anticipated.”

Simpson said the idea came from another school in Regional School Unit 11, Helen Thompson School in West Gardiner, which has a similar structure. But whereas Helen Thompson uses that space mainly for eating, Simpson wanted Pittston’s to enhance instruction.

First grade teacher Sherry Marcum has already made use of the outside classroom while leading her students through a unit about weather and how it differs from climate or season.

She hung up two thermometers, one in the shade of the outside classroom’s roof and one in the sun, then had students check whether there was a difference after 10 minutes.

Marcum’s class also has ventured outside more than once to see how weather changes — from a mostly sunny and warm day last week to cool, windy and overcast on Tuesday — even as the season remains the same.

“It’s nice to have that space so they can get the sense of what it really means,” Marcum said.

The students wouldn’t need to have a structure to be able to go outside and make observations, but Marcum said it protects students from the elements and helps them feel like they’re still in a classroom.

The outside classroom is a cement slab and a roof now, but the school just ordered picnic tables to make it more comfortable.

Simpson said funding for the project included an anonymous $800 cash donation last school year and revenue from the Box Tops for Education program. A parent volunteer, Tara Sabbatis, coordinated the project, soliciting donations of materials and labor.

Volunteers and donors for the project included Norman Nichols, Gary Ladner, Gary and Nathan Trask of Built-Well Builders, Auburn Concrete and Karen and Gary Baker.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
[email protected]