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Whiting Elementary School Opens Outdoor Classroom

Whiting Elementary School students will now have the opportunity to spend time learning about sustainability and the environment in a beautiful new outdoor classroom. The Wildcat Wilderness Workspace Outdoor Classroom, funded by PSE&G through Sustainable NJ for Schools (SNJS), was officially opened at the start of the Whiting Wellness Fair on June 6, 2019. The classroom consists of a large covered patio with benches that convert to worktables and a single wall with a whiteboard at one end. There are also several rainwater collection barrels that catch runoff from the roof.

A large crowd of students, parents, staff, administrators and guests gathered near the classroom for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Whiting School Principal Evelyn Swift explained that the school first worked to achieve SNJS Bronze status. "This made Whiting School healthier, happier, and more sustainable," she said. "Being part of Sustainable Jersey, we were able to apply for grants funded by generous companies like PSE&G." She said they applied several times before learning that they received a $10,000 grant.

Mrs. Swift speaking in front of outdoor classroom

"This process has been a long one but the outcome, as you can see, has been well worth it. We now have this space that will enhance our student learning and, aside from the obvious benefits of being outside, we will also use this space as a catalyst to educate our students and our staff on sustainability and our environment. With Whiting being settled here in the Pine Barrens, it creates a unique opportunity for our students to learn about a very special ecosystem and we have begun to put together lessons for all of our grades that focus on our local ecosystem as well as the importance of protecting the place where we live."

Heather McCall of Sustainable NJ for Schools said that out of 900 participating schools, a select 242 were able to do the work and the commitment to become Bronze or Silver certified. "Whiting Elementary School is part of that select group among state public schools that has shined through as a leader in sustainability education and sustainable practices, and teaching your kids and your students to be ready for the future. So you have so much to be proud of here."

Mrs. Swift said there were many people to thank for supporting the project, starting with teachers Natalie Baranyay and Christopher Titmas, who helped write the grant, and the Whiting School staff and students for committing to sustainable practices. "This would not have been possible without the generosity of PSE&G and Sustainable Jersey for Schools, along with the support of our superintendent and our Board of Education, the buildings and grounds department under the direction of Chris Brown - who I want to give a very special thank you to - and his staff George DePremio, Craig Ginda, Steve Whitfield and Chris Evans. And also thank you to Mr. Mark Hingston for the donation of these beautiful benches. With all that being said, I just want to thank all of you for coming out in support of this incredible project."

After the ribbon-cutting, the Wellness Fair commenced. There were displays from local businesses and organizations, food trucks, and a variety of health and fitness activities for kids to participate in. Students were given 'passports' to have stamped at each display or activity and were able to enter their passports into a drawing to win a new bicycle.There was also a Teachers vs. Parents Basketball Game, with the winning team (Parents) playing the Manchester Police Department. The police were the winners. Proceeds from the Wellness Fair will be used to enhance the outdoor classroom and for the school's student activities fund.