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A Moline elementary school gets an 'outdoor classroom' made from derecho debris

Logan Elementary celebrated the grand opening of its 'outdoor classroom' as a place for staff and students to take mask breaks, have outdoor learning, and relax.

MOLINE, Ill. — Logan Elementary School in Moline is bringing the classroom outside, thanks to a grant from the Jaycees of the Quad Cities. 

The new 'outdoor classroom' features eight wooden benches, astroturf and flowers, in a shaded corner of the school's playground. It's a place for staff and students to take a lesson outside, have a mask break, or relax for a bit. 

At 600-800 pounds each, it took a skid steer to help install the benches, which were made from a tree that fell in Cedar Rapids during 2020's derecho. The area can seat around 26 kids at a time. 

Most of the nearly $16,000 project was funded from the Jaycees, but organizers say it was truly a community effort. Tri-City Garden Club helped with landscaping materials and the Kiwanis Club of Moline donated volunteers to help with installation and weeding. 

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"A lot of volunteer hours and a lot of people just pulled together which makes it a great project," said Jayne O'Brien, Parent Coordinator for Logan Elementary. 

She initially wrote the grant to the Jaycees after noticing the 'underutilized' space on the school's property, with the idea to create a place where students weren't stuck inside.

"We had looked at some other companies that sold outdoor classrooms and they were pretty pricey," said O'Brien. "Then we got in touch with the Jaycees of the Quad Cities and they really took the project even a step further by saying let's repurpose wood from the derecho." 

Logan Elementary's Principal, Tom Ferguson, called the project 'exciting' and one that's been a long-time-coming for the school. 

"We had been brainstorming projects since we knew we had some green space that could use some development," he said. "Kids love being out here and we realized we didn't have a great place for classes to come out to sit down and find shade, especially when it's hot in an un-airconditioned building." 

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He said while the weather's been so hot, it's been a relief for kids to come over to the benches and relax without their masks on for a bit. And while the school tries to limit screen time as much as possible, he said the wifi for student's computers does reach out to the benches. 

"So as we promote literacy and community in our building, this was just a perfect fit for us," he said. "For us, in a landlocked building where we don't have big fields and a ton of green space, this is a nice little refuge for kids to come and sit and hang out." 

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