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Sails, ENOs, Basketball - Oh My!

GMC staff and students are rigorously working hard whenever time allows to make their outdoor learning courtyard the ideal learning environment.

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The purpose of the patio, according to Principal Jimmy Armstrong, is to provide an open environment for students. “There is a big emphasis now on outdoor classrooms and outdoor learning environments.” Said Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Physics teacher Keith McCaskill, and the courtyard is meant to be just that: a multi-purpose area where students can gather to eat, relax, and study.

The patio is also intended for larger gatherings like dances, festivals, and meetings. “We are trying to preserve the culture from the portables and deck,” said English I, Young Adult Lit, and Creative Writing teacher Megan Schonhar. “And the outdoor learning courtyard is a great space to provide the tight-knit community feel.”

In order to enhance this great space, shade sails will be put in place above the patio. A more permanent covering has been investigated; however, there have been more pressing needs to attend to inside the building. “The idea,” said Mr. Armstrong. “Is to add a permanent covering involving metal with metal or [a] thick plastic covering that should be at least 9' high and cover an area of 12' x 16'.” The goal of this undertaking is not to diminish the current, aesthetic view of the building.

Speaking of view, the wooden poles which have been standing beside the patio since the beginning of the 2017-18 school year are soon to become GMC’s very own ENO Village. There should be another set of 2x4 beams coming in soon and Mr. Armstrong, who has the machinery needed to complete the job, will be putting the remainder of the poles in place. In addition to mulch, there are plans to add various other items to the ENO Village such as an awning or Pergola. The ENOs themselves came from the ENO headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. Student Ambassadors Adeline Maycan and Angus McCord, along with teachers Ms. Earle and Mrs. Rouse, visited the location and received a considerable discount which they used, in addition to some funding for the patio, to be able to buy the hammocks. The administration is thinking about keeping the ENOs in College Sem so that students can check them out. This system will help identify who is responsible if an ENO goes missing or is vandalized, but “it’s not...a setup to give people detentions,” said Maycan. Having an ENO Village is “a privilege.”

Like the ENO Village is bound to be, basketball has become a favorite pastime on the patio. Student Ambassadors, the club responsible for identifying student desires and needs, brought the idea into existence. “With the portables, you always were able to go outside,” said Student Ambassador Austin Farkas. “There was that sense of being able to go outside. So we feel like if we have something out there that you can do on the patio, then you’re...able to go out and have fun and there’s...more of that environment.” According to Mr. Armstrong, the purpose behind having a basketball goal is to provide a "release" from the rigorous work going on at GMC. When the gym is built, the basketball goal will remain on the patio because classes will be going on in the activity center so, during lunch, there will not be an opportunity to practice the sport in the gym area. The basketball goal, which has met an untimely demise, will not be returned to its former glory for a while.

Envisioning more plants in the patio area and desiring that profuse students will be able to say that they helped maintain GMC’s landscape, Mr. McCaskill and his Environmental Science classes have already planted various shrubs native to the Trailer Park, including the deck’s iconic Crepe Myrtle. “There is no better way to learn about the environment than to experience it firsthand.” Said Mr. McCaskill. Therefore plans are in place to construct raised garden beds so that students can observe the growth of various vegetables, some of which are growing in one of the beds next to the patio right now. “Yes, you can put vegetables in a flower bed.” Said Mr. McCaskill. In addition to a school garden, Mr. McCaskill anticipates adding plants that will attract butterflies and birds, some items around the retention pond, and leaving an area near the patio untouched so that students can discern what happens to an unmaintained area over time. If any parents or students are interested in helping with patio projects, they can email Ms. Schonhar at mschonhar@greermiddlecollege.org.