Preston Hollow Women’s Club members have noticed how the pandemic has changed the ways educators teach, and students learn.
But the benefits of getting outside to escape masks and social distancing requirements will outlive the virus, members predicted.
To that end, the club’s latest major philanthropy project is creating a courtyard classroom at Preston Hollow Elementary School, 6423 Walnut Hill Lane. It will accommodate a class of about 25 students.
“We have raised over $100,000 for this project,” publicity chair Elaine Walters said. And fundraising continues. The goal: $231,000 to cover all three phases.
The elementary school, located between Preston Road and Hillcrest Drive, has been the philanthropic beneficiary of the club for the past five years. A digital marquee, soccer bleachers, and goals were installed through the partnership.
The ADA-accessible outdoor classroom will go in an empty courtyard and include a covered central structure surrounded by artificial turf with raised planter beds and areas where curious students can explore and get creative.
The project broke ground on May 27, and philanthropy co-chair Beth McGaw expects Phase I to wrap up over the summer.
“Phase 2 and 3, which includes the shade structure and landscaping, are scheduled to be completed by May 2023, depending on funding,” she said.
Club members intend for the courtyard to become a distraction-free space that will engage students in reading, math, social studies, science, and other topics.
“Research shows that outdoor classrooms can increase students’ concentration, increase engagement, and decrease stress,” said McGaw, who has a master’s degree in education. “And teachers report that their students are more focused outside and misbehave less often. Teachers themselves felt refreshed and patient and therefore better able to respond to their student’s needs.”