DERRY — It's a study of the great outdoors as students at South Range Elementary School enjoy a nature's classroom.

Volunteers, families and school staff came out last weekend to continue work on the outdoor space that fills a grassy hill behind the school building on Drury Lane.

The hilly location is taking shape as the school's new outdoor study area, complete with florals, gardens, trees, a composting bin and plenty of room for young students to sit and study.

The nature's classroom project began last year about after several parents decided the school needed to have a spot outside for students and teachers to enjoy as part of daily studies.

That led to work days and lots of use throughout the school months ahead.

The most recent work day last weekend was for finishing some projects, installing a new classroom sign and other updates like more planting and weeding.

Mike Lawrence, the father of a South Range Elementary student, said it was a great idea that caught on fast and now that its fall, the area needed some care.

"We haven't done anything since last fall," he said. "We weeded everything and redid the path."

South Range Assistant Principal Michelle Cremone said having a natural space at the school for children and staff to enjoy has been a great addition to the school community.

"Last spring, it was the best place to be," she said, "and just to be out in nature to do some work."

She said South Range students have enjoyed using the outdoor space. That includes their teachers, too.

"They really enjoy it," Cremone added. "Just getting out and being in that space."

Classes come outside to do science, writing, drawing and other learning tasks utilizing the natural surroundings up on the hill.

The classroom will have a weather station, too, to help children watch the daily forecast around their school. The space is also far enough from the main school building, recess areas and fields to be a quiet location for learning.

But the classroom needed some fall upkeep, Cremone said.

Last Saturday's work schedule included having children spread mulch around perennials and help plant some new trees.

A large circular center space also got some upgrades including new gravel.

Lawrence pointed out that a lot of people offered help and donations, including families and volunteers, the school staff, students and local businesses.

There are several types of fruit trees, perennials, florals and shrubs, along with a wooden composting bin located at the outdoor site. Lawrence noted that children using the natural space can learn many lessons including gardening, weather, composting, history, art and science.

Grant money has also gone to support the outdoor classroom.

Lyndon Zenga said he was outside in the classroom last year while a second grader at South Range.

"I sat on the stumps and we discovered our surroundings," Lyndon said.

Lyndon also spent part of the recent word day raking and helping plant new trees. Volunteers and families also enjoyed a barbecue.

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