Monsignor O’Donoghue CES unveils student-led outdoor classroom project

Group photo of student from MOD in new outdoor classroom.

Nov. 23, 2023

What began as an empty space in front of Monsignor O’Donoghue Catholic Elementary School in Peterborough has culminated into a series of student leadership and community partnership accomplishments over the last year. 

Students, staff, and a few alumni welcomed key partners to their new outdoor learning space on Nov. 2 as the official opening and blessing with Msgr. Mike Heffernan.

Grade 8 students from the 2022/23 school year participating in the building project,

Grade 8 students from the 2022/23 school year participating in the building project.

As part of a deep learning inquiry with the Grade 8 classes last year, students spearheaded the creation of the space with everything from conducting surveys and focus groups to conceptualize the design, to the physical labour including digging holes, laying sod, as well as shovelling and spreading wood chips. 

In attendance were five alumni from that group, who came to celebrate with current Grade 8 students who had worked since the start of the school year to create an online resource on how to use the space as a hub for outdoor learning for years to come.

Photo of Jeannie Armstrong speaking in front of students in new outdoor classroom.

“This space exemplifies the three pillars of our system’s strategic plan,” said superintendent Jeannie Armstrong, in front of a crowd that included past principal Shelley Adair, classmates, teachers, school and Board administrators and community partners. “Being creative in the design and ways students can learn outdoors, being well, supporting mental health and well-being with a space for prayer and Christian meditation, and finally, being community, with this space being a perfect example of what it means to be community and work in collaboration with many partners.” 

In addition to contributions from community partners such as Camp Kawartha, the school’s catholic school council, and Hydro One, students from the Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School construction Specialist High Skills Major Program played a key role in manufacturing the picnic benches and garden beds.

“When students, staff, central board staff, community partners, the parish, and the catholic school council work together, great things can happen,” reflected principal Paul Hough. “My hope is that this classroom will be a shining example of the good that is possible when everyone works together.”