Student’s Vision for Outdoor Classroom Becomes Reality

With friends and volunteers, sophomore Abigail Haldorson (pictured in the purple t-shirt and standing second from right) designed and built a new outdoor classroom.

Hill-Murray sophomore Abigail Haldorson’s vision for an outdoor classroom is now more than a picture in her mind. After months of planning, designing and hands-on construction, it has come to life and is one of the exterior changes you’ll see around the Hill-Murray campus in the future.

Abigail worked with multiple groups to create the outdoor classroom, which is adjacent to the Priory Preserve. Her idea was to encourage interaction between students.

To support this collaborative learning environment, she placed seating (boulders) in a circle, and made sure supplies are always available to check out, including small whiteboards, markers and erasers. This way teams of students can work through thoughts and then share with the whole class.

A key part of the classroom is the connection it provides to the Priory Preserve. The Preserve includes 46 acres of natural space and walking trails. Abigail started this project as part of her 9th grade English class and she has seen it through design, ordering of the materials, construction and seeding.

Abigail Haldorson operating a Bobcat to help construct an outdoor classroom.

Along the way, she has organized dozens of students and their parents to help with the construction and has created an Environmental Health Club to maintain the space and help educate our students on the health benefits from time in the outdoors.

At the same time Abigail was working on the outdoor classroom, Hill-Murray applied for and received a Stewardship Grant from the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to bring back native prairie to two spaces on the Hill-Murray campus.

Working with Prairie Restorations, come spring, you will notice Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, Cordgrass along with a cover crop of Winter Wheat emerging south of the tennis courts and west of the football field.

These exterior updates and upgrades are part of the school’s new Strategic Plan, which, in part, calls for a more innovative campus. H-M President Melissa Dan says the plan for the outdoor campus and surrounding area will offer students, faculty and staff “the opportunity to engage with the outdoors and develop their sense of environmental stewardship and care for creation.”

“These sections of prairie, the outdoor classroom and the priory preserve offer our students a living, ever-changing, interactive science and history museum of plants that provide a habitat for our students to interact and discover the world around them,” Dan said.