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Paden Pelicans Celebrate New Outdoor Learning Center
Posted 5/7/22

Paden Elementary’s community of students, staff, and families celebrated the opening of a new outdoor learning center last weekend as part of their Earth Day Celebration. The outdoor classroom features redwood planters, solar-generated electricity, and electric shades to reduce glare. 

solar panelsThe 900 square foot classroom, which was designed by Krista Rigsbee of Constructive Design and built by Glen Rigsbee of Pacific Metro Electric, is anchored into the ground with eight 20-foot helical piles. The solar panels on the roof allow light to come through so plants can grow below.

“100 years ago, John Dewey said that if you want students toTwins watering learn, don’t just give them something to read, give them something to do,” Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi said in his remarks. “We are excited to see that students will learn about plant biology and ecosystems, but they’ll also learn about working together via hands-on projects. This is emblematic of the kind of educational experiences we want to provide not only at Paden but across the district. It’s a great step in the right direction.”


"Long and Winding Road"

girl painting bottleThe idea for the learning center originated about four years ago, when parent Craig Williams approached the district for help upgrading the school garden. The final project is meant to be a prototype for other outdoor education centers in AUSD. “It was a long and winding road,” Williams says. “It is a privilege to see it mostly finished.” Added Paden parent Marisa Johnson, “With everything we have been through, to have this outdoor space is amazing."  

The Earth Day Celebration, which included a shoreline cleanup,girls cutting ribbon opportunities to plant vegetable starts, and a station for painting glass bottles to be used for irrigation, also featured a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center.  

“I have long said school should be 80% school and 20% summer camp. If we don’t teach kids a passion for learning, we aren’t doing our job,” Principal Drew Sarratore said. The center, he added, will allow children to “not just hear about solar power but see it in action” and allow the school to develop a “seed-to-table” program in which students learn to grow and prepare food.

As part of the new outdoor learning area, several parents also donated a library case so that students can choose books while they are outside for recess. “Not everyone wants to play kickball,” Sarratore said. “Some just want to read in a peaceful outdoor space.”

With the pandemic, more and more schools are getting interested in outdoor learning, Krista Rigbee said. “There was always a lot of interest, but with the virus it has become a priority.”