Kindergarten teacher Therese Markin with Brent Kennedy Elementary students at their new outdoor classroom. Submitted photos

Community comes together to create outdoor classroom at Kootenay school

Brent Kennedy Elementary has a new learning space thanks to an inspired teacher Kalesnikoff Lumber

Brent Kennedy Elementary School has a new outdoor classroom thanks to a teacher with initiative and a local company with a community spirit.

Kindergarten teacher Therese Marken has faced 25 years worth of back to school preparations, but thanks to COVID-19, this year is anything but routine.

As she began to brainstorm about how to make this a great year for her students in spite of the complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Marken came up with the idea of creating an outdoor classroom space.

Marken enlisted the help of her family to come up with a sketch and a proposal for the project.

“I was kind of afraid of asking for too much. I was just going to make some log rounds and plywood tables,” said Marken.

“I thought it would be just sort of be like a kindergarten camp that we could go to.”

Brent Kennedy’s principal and School District 8 gave their stamp of approval to the project and Marken approached Kalesnikoff Lumber with her proposal.

“Once the project fell into Kalesnikoff’s hands — it was amazing,” said Marken.

Kalesnikoff donated all of the lumber needed for the project including two tables crafted at their new mass timber facility.

RELATED: Equipment arrives for Kalesnikoff’s mass timber facility

“I had no idea what they were planning,” said Marken.

“I was almost in tears when the two trucks arrived with two beautiful tables, all the log rounds and all the other wood that was needed.”

Start to finish the project was complete in three weeks and in time for the second day of school. The outdoor classroom is now nestled on the edge of the woods that surrounds the school property.

“It felt like community caring for community,” said Marken about Kalensnikoff embracing the project.

“It is keeping the teachers safe, which is keeping the students safe, which is keeping the families safe. They were there for the community.”

Marken says not just her students, but the whole school has been enjoying the space.

“It’s a play space, it’s a learning space, it’s a social place,” she said.

Marken foresees using the space year round, even dressing her students up in their snowsuits for some outdoor learning. Lesson plans using snow, pebbles and pinecones for letters, counting and art projects are already dancing through her head.

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Andrea Mann, Brent Kennedy Elementary’s Aboriginal education teacher leads a class up to the new learning space. Submitted photos

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