Will fresh air lead to fresh thinking at RC?
Outdoor Learning Gardens to make debut Aug. 19
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By Kelli Davis, Teen correspondent  August 14, 2014 09:43 am

In preparation for the 2014-2015 school year, the old Rancho Cotate football field has been refurbished into an outdoor classroom. 

The project began in the second semester of the last school year and was finished by the time last year’s seniors graduated. Officially called the Outdoor Learning Gardens, the space has been equipped with several wooden tables and an amphitheater big enough for a very large class. Using the “classroom” is expected to give students and teachers alike a break in the day. 

Kids in modern schools, both high school students and those in younger grades, are continuously shown to have trouble concentrating on what they are being taught. For ages, the system of having to focus on a teacher as they lecture has been considered normal because it is the most cost-efficient way to teach. Students have been shown to only be able to effectively listen for about 15 minutes at a time, and then for only a few minutes at a time at later intervals. 

Every class at Rancho, except on late-start Wednesdays, is about 60 minutes long, and some students find themselves becoming inattentive when teachers spend the entire session merely lecturing without any breaks. Between every two classes is a break lasting for at least 15 minutes that gives students relief, but the break in the middle of those two classes is only five minutes. The outdoor classroom provides a new and stimulating environment that will hopefully catch students’ attention when they are brought out there. 

Cole Smith, Rancho’s CAD (Computer Aided Design) teacher, was the man who came up with the idea to create the learning space. For the last couple of years, the plans for the classroom were being finalized and looked over. The space is prepared for students to be in it, with necessities like electricity, water and a bathroom area all readily available. 

To fund the project, donations were given by 2013’s graduating class as well as a grant by Lowe’s. The class gave $5,000 to assist the construction and other fees that would come with building such a facility. Nearly all of the tables and design plans were made by Smith’s students. The tables and the amphitheater are made with material that is basically weather proof and will last a very long time. 

The finished construction is easily seen to anyone visiting the Rancho Cotate campus, as it is placed directly ahead of the front gates. As this is the first year students will be able to learn in such a place, nobody is really sure if it will increase students’ abilities to concentrate, but everyone is hopeful. As most students haven’t gone anywhere near the campus, a majority have not yet seen the structure. Surely, this will be something everyone is talking about on the first day back on Tuesday, Aug. 19. 

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