Catherine Gebauer ’84, Academy parent, alumna, and trustee

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a beautiful spring day with members of Harrisburg Academy’s Environmental Club. My daughter, Louise, wanted to create an outdoor classroom in the woods behind the Upper Athletics Field for her National Honor Society project.  Enlisting the help of the newly formed club, the students created an outdoor space that is ready to use as an Academy classroom!  The club debuted the space during the Academy’s Earth Day activities last week.

Acklynn, Carola, Louise, Sara, Evan, Noah and Pablo explored the woods to find just the right spot. They cleared away weeds and leaves from the site, moved heavy log stumps, dug holes to make the stump seats secure, and sanded each seat to a smooth finish.  The students then strategically placed the stumps in a circle to create an outdoor classroom with fifteen seats, a six foot long bench fashioned from a log, and even a teacher’s desk made from the base of a huge tree.   They created natural rock cairns to identify the trail and mark the new site of the Environmental Club’s Outdoor Classroom, a peaceful spot by a little stream.  What an unexpected pleasure to have class in the woods looking up at the sky!  They even found a skeleton of a giant bird of prey that was delivered to Mrs. Shover for use in the EC/LS science lab.

When the students finished their work, Mr. Frengel visited the site to share in the excitement.  His students were so proud to show him the giant desk and seat they created for the teachers to use, the actual classroom of seats, and even the skeleton; he was so gracious and delighted to see what they had done.  It will be a great place to hold Shakespeare lessons, share stories, science activities, historical re-enactments, creative math problems, foreign language discussions, plein air painting, and outdoor art exhibits.  The sky is the limit!

This is the kind of heartwarming experience I love to see at the Academy.  The students work together, help each other, collaborate, create, and accomplish great things – and most notably thought of how the teachers would enjoy and use it.  Thank you to the the teachers and staff that helped facilitate these endeavors — Mrs. Pastor, Dr. Newman, Dr. Banks, Ms. Clark,  Mrs. Shover, and Mr. Frengel — for enthusiastically supporting their efforts, and to all Academy teachers who inspire our students every day.  This mutual caring and respect is so important for the teachers and students alike.  These relationships make our school a special place students remember long after they graduate.

I hope the other students and teachers will have a chance to use this new outdoor space. And perhaps new students will be inspired to join the club – our students have a lot of ideas for projects that will keep improving the space for years to come!  Congratulations to the Environmental Club to a job well done!