Smithtown Elementary Takes Education Outdoors with New Learning Space

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Smithtown Elementary first graders studied outdoors for a portion of Friday morning.

Students in Marcie Krause’s first-grade class at Smithtown Elementary received fresh air while working on their alphabet skills on Friday morning.

A new outdoor learning space in the Smithtown Elementary courtyard is providing students and faculty throughout the school with an open-air classroom on a rotating basis.

The outdoor learning space is particularly valuable given the current circumstances, because it provides an extended mask break while learning continues. But the open-air classroom, complete with a chalkboard, picnic tables, umbrellas and assorted outdoor chairs, will continue to be utilized even once the pandemic is fully in the rearview mirror.

The PTA contributed the umbrellas, while the district purchased the tables. And the custodial staff helped set up the area.

Krause’s class took advantage on Friday. She mouthed a sound, and the first graders said aloud what letter matched. Each student then wrote the letter in the air a few times, before also writing it on an individual whiteboard with a marker.

“We’ve always considered the possibility of creating an outdoor learning space,” principal Janine Lavery said. “But, of course, with the onset of COVID and the challenges that it brought to us, we’ve been bringing the children out regularly. Last year, we moved forward with plans to purchase picnic tables so that teachers and staff could eat outside, but also — outside of lunch hours — it could be used as an outdoor classroom.”