After more than a year of partnership building, landscaping, research, and curricular development, Sackville’s Salem Elementary School held the official launch of their outdoor classrooms yesterday, November 6, 2014. Volunteer correspondent Katharyn Stevenson was on the scenes to report, and brought us live interviews with Salem’s principal, Ada Phinney, as well as Robert Streach, a community member who designed and built the pirate-ship-shaped outdoor classroom structure, and Dr. Michael Fox of Mount Allison University, who has played a key role in seeking funds and developing curricula for the outdoor classrooms.

Dr. Fox aims to generate outdoor and environmental education programming at the school in order to counter “nature deficit disorder,” a panoply of ills from mental health issues to attention problems to childhood obesity that stem from children spending too much of their school day indoors. The outdoor classrooms have already been the site of the Trailblazers outdoor after school program and a summer-long kids’ gardening project. In the coming months, Dr. Fox’s Education for Sustainable Development class will send students to Salem to work in tandem with elementary educators to develop course materials and activities using the outdoors, covering K-4 curricular topics including soil systems and energy.