An outdoor education
Suwanee Elementary students to learn name of classroom built by PTA Dads' Club

SUWANEE - Students at Suwanee Elementary this week will learn the name of their new outdoor classroom.

Students submitted suggestions as to what to call the space, built by the PTA's Dads' Club, PTA co-president Melissa Shaffer said. PTA board members have narrowed the selections to five - Jaguar Jungle, Jaguar Jungle of Learning, Jaguar Den, Jaguar Jungle: Our Natural Learning Habitat and Jaguar Den: Our Natural Learning Habitat - and the winning entry will be announced on the school's morning announcements.

The outdoor classroom, officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony during the school's Fall Festival, was a vision three years in the making, Shaffer said.

Jeff Fry, chairman of the Dads' Club, helped design the space. He said he focused on creating a learning environment made from materials that would be easy to maintain.

"I think we've made a very functional classroom that can be used for anything," Fry said.

The handicap-accessible space contains a platform, a teacher's desk and a chalkboard, he said. He's thinking about elements that can be added to the space, such as a solar panel.

"I'm very proud of it, and I'm excited about the kids using it," he said. "Even though it's done, it's not done. ... I'm already seeing the future, because I really think it's something that can just take off."

Fry said it was great to see the community pull together to create the outdoor classroom for the students.

"All the kids in the whole school will benefit," he said. "It's good that the kids have an alternative to the standard learning format."

Shaffer said she thinks the classroom will get a lot of use, especially when warmer weather returns.

"It's important for students to be outside and in touch with nature," she said.

Shaffer said materials and funding for the project were provided by the Suwanee Elementary PTA, the Justin Dozier family, North Gwinnett Schools Foundation, Pine Creek Construction and Marc Caputo, McKune Landscaping Inc. and Michael McKune, and Benchmark Construction and Allen Dolphyn.