Some of Rochester’s youngest scientists paid a visit last week to check in on progress toward new outdoor classrooms and other amenities in the Hanson Pines and Cocheco River area.
Last spring, Maple Street Magnet School students reached out to Rochester’s Riverwalk Committee to forge a partnership that will help develop portions of the Cocheco River and Hanson Pines areas into outdoor learning spaces.
Since then, students have conducted fundraising, brainstormed ideas and contributed to planning and design of outdoor classroom spaces. The Riverwalk committee is working closely with students to identify options for other new installations, which will ultimately require the approval from the Hanson Pines Trustees and the City Council.
Students will take on an active role in navigating the approval process by presenting to the two boards and defending their proposals publicly.
On Wednesday, April 3, students and members of the committee visited those areas as a first step in the next phase of a year-long project. There they discussed ways to incorporate hands-on learning that would allow students to better connect with nature in their own community.
“When we heard about the Riverwalk Committee’s efforts to create outdoor learning spaces along the riverwalk, we knew we had to offer our newfound expertise and enthusiasm to this community project,” said fourth grade teacher Sara Cantrell. “One of the most exciting things about this project has been how closely our students’ ideas have aligned with those of the committee.”
Students have developed several ideas, which they’ll continue to work on with the committee to build upon and determine how to make them a reality. Some of their ideas included places to climb, an obstacle course, a bird watching station, science center, information stations and signage.
“One of the goals of the Rochester Riverwalk Committee has always been to incorporate aspects that can be utilized by the Rochester School District as part of its curriculum,’ Committee Chair Stacey Marchionni said. “Connecting children to the outdoors and getting them outside to learn, do hands-on projects and enjoy their natural surroundings is a huge part of our work to make these areas a true community asset.”
As part of the group’s next steps, they have identified options for outdoor classroom layouts and are working to identify and install signage that will inform visitors of all ages about the environment, wildlife and natural elements that surround them on the trails.
“We are delighted that the Maple Street Magnet School has embraced this project, as has Spaulding High School,” Marchionni added, “and we look forward to working with the teachers and students to bring this aspect of the Riverwalk project to fruition.”