Volunteers fuel effort for outdoor classroom

POULSBO — The woods near Poulsbo Elementary have a new addition: four picnic tables and two small wooden foot bridges.

POULSBO — The woods near Poulsbo Elementary have a new addition: four picnic tables and two small wooden foot bridges.

The amenities may sound modest, but it’s a project several years in the making.

For five years teacher Darryl Elves has wanted an outdoor classroom where students can read, write, enjoy and study nature just a stone’s throw from their classroom.

But tables are not inexpensive, and the project languished for many years.

“I never thought, to be honest, that it would all come together,” Elves said.

But earlier this year, Elves applied for help with local company EDS. Volunteers from EDS were going to do two projects on World Volunteers’ Day, Oct. 5, and Elves wanted the outdoor classroom to be one of them.

EDS said yes, and soon more help arrived. Tim Ryan Construction donated most of the materials, Central Market donated food and Poulsbo Junior High found some money in its budget to cover the rest of materials.

So, Saturday afternoon, 15 volunteers or so — most of whom sported “World Volunteers’ Day” T-shirts — showed up at Poulsbo Elementary, where they got to work hammering, cutting, and measuring the picnic tables that would become the outdoor classroom.

Elves said classes will get a lot of use out of the project.

“It’s just a different setting,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful setting in the woods, and a lot of the time kids will do sensory writing, where they write what they sense, hear, or feel.”

The outdoor classroom will be used for more than that. Fifth grade has an environmental component, said Elves, and students can take soil studies and plant studies in the woods now.

“Plant and soil studies are a natural for that site,” he said.

One of Elves’ classrooms has already put the new area to use. They wrote thank you notes to EDS on the new tables.

“This is a project I had envisioned five years ago,” Elves said, “but it just seemed like stumbling block after stumbling block. It was great to see it all come together.”

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