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New Outdoor Classroom Coming to Paul Duke STEM High School

Spearheaded by the PTSA, Paul Duke STEM High School will transform an underutilized outdoor space into a dynamic outdoor classroom.

Paul Duke STEM High School, an innovative public school serving Peachtree Corners and Norcross, has announced a new campus development project. Spearheaded by the PTSA, the initiative will transform an underutilized outdoor space into a dynamic outdoor classroom.

“Like many things, this [outdoor] space has evolved since the school opened,” said Karin Susskind, Paul Duke STEM PTSA Treasurer.

“We started by providing picnic tables hand-built by students, parents and staff. Students gravitated to this space and started using it for gardening, astronomy, environmental sciences, physics and more, but with the current configuration, we have identified limitations in the use of this area,” she added.

One of the biggest challenges students face when currently trying to use the space is the lack of sun coverage. Besides having little relief from the hot Georgia sun, the glare from the sun also makes it difficult for students to see and use their school-issued computers properly.

“Adding coverage will bring this space to life and allow students and educators open space for instruction, student wellness, clubs and more,” said Susskind.

Fundraising and construction

With a fundraising target set for the end of May, the PTSA hopes to break ground over the summer. From there, construction should be fairly quick—only taking 12 weeks to complete, with an additional week set aside to install some other features.

In order to raise the necessary $75,000 for the outdoor classroom, the PTSA launched the “Walk of Fame” project.

“The Walk of Fame project was inspired by Simpson Elementary’s playground fundraiser years ago. They sold engraved bricks to fund a new playground for the school. You can still go visit the area today and see the names of the families and sponsors who contributed to that project. It is a legacy those families left behind,” explained Susskind.

“The project allows anyone a chance to leave their mark and be part of the legacy of building the outdoor classroom for Paul Duke STEM High School. We are selling bricks of several sizes with many customization options. These engraved bricks will be the foundation of this classroom project (physically and financially) and will forever be cemented in the space,” she said.

The funds raised will be used to purchase and install two large sunshades, install the engraved bricks under the shade structures and purchase furniture for the students to sit on.

“Eventually, we would love to continue to grow the project with solar-powered outlets and additional enhancements that will create more functionality and continue to beautify the space,” added Susskind.

Getting involved

Student wellness is key to a thriving educational environment and enhancing instructional support in new and creative ways has ripple effects throughout the community.

“The opportunity this classroom provides to our school community is limitless. As a STEM-focused school, we have the opportunity to provide students with hands-on instruction through interactive experiences,” said Susskind.

“Our outdoor classroom can be used by several different classes (physics, environmental sciences, health, astronomy, chemistry, etc.) to enhance the classroom experience. Students can be awarded lunch time outdoors to get fresh air. Several of our clubs will spend time in this space collaborating on their respective projects and activities,” she further explained.

Those interested in supporting this project can contact the PTSA via email at pdshs.ptsa@gmail.com.

Or you can visit the project’s website at pauldukestemptsa.org/walk-of-fame. The PTSA is actively seeking contributions and sponsorships from all who want to be part of this lasting legacy.

Photo caption: Aerial view of the outdoor space at Paul Duke STEM High School that will turn into a new outdoor classroom.

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