Northern Berks School opens outdoor learning pavilion
April 22—It is late April, which means spring is in the air in Berks County.
Temperatures are warming up and frequent rain showers cause flowers to bloom and trees to begin to fill with leaves. Birds chirping are more frequent, rabbits and squirrels and other critters can be seen frolicking.
Soon, students at Tilden Elementary Center will get a chance to see it all up close.
On Friday, the Hamburg school district held a groundbreaking ceremony for an outdoor learning pavilion at the elementary center. The 40-by-60-foot structure will provide a place for students to learn and relax in the fresh air and surrounded by the wonders of nature.
“The kids are so excited,” said Sherry Fuhrmann, fourth grade teacher and project manager for the pavilion project.
The Outdoor Learning Pavilion is a project that took years to prepare. Fuhrmann said the idea to build it started in 2019.
“We thought if we had an outdoor facility, it’s a place where we could all gather and have fun outdoors,” Fuhrmann said.
The pavilion could be a place where children could get hands-on science lessons, school officials thought. It could be a place to host events, host speakers, have lunch, or relax with a good book.
The school was able to raise just over $30,000 for the project. Then COVID hit.
Like many things, the project was derailed by the pandemic. But, Fuhrmann said, dealing with COVID has also affirmed the need for outdoor educational spaces.
Fuhrmann said the pavilion would have provided a place for children to take a break without wearing masks during the school day. And that would have allowed the school to continue hosting speakers and other guests, which has been put on hold during the pandemic.
“As a lot has changed in the time of COVID, we have changed and our goal has become to be able to get outside and breathe fresh air,” Fuhrmann said.
So in January, fundraising efforts resumed. The project was able to raise an additional $35,600 through fundraisers and 52 sponsors, bringing the total amount of funds for the project to just over $65,600.
The two biggest sponsors are the Strausstown Rod and Gun Club at $20,000 and Rutter’s at $5,000.
“We have very nice sponsors,” Fuhrmann said.
Several local businesses also provided in-kind services, including the donation of 30 meters of concrete from 4 Winds Concrete, 30 three-axle loads of fill and labor from Premiere Fleet and Sawyer Services, and three-table discounts. picnic area and volunteer labor from Lowe’s.
The Crossroads Group did all the civil engineering for the project for free, and Dande Farm & Excavation donated time to dig.
Fuhrmann said she’s thrilled with all the community support the project has received, but not surprised. She said the area is filled with people who take to heart the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child”.
“It was a mammoth task for everyone, but they did it for the greater good,” she said.
Fuhrman said the pavilion should be completed by the end of May. When this is the case, the 530 pupils of the primary center will have the opportunity to carry out all kinds of outdoor projects.
These include collecting rain, learning about solar panels, planting and caring for various plants, nature walks and bird watching.