By Nan Kiel
Awtrey Middle School’s new outdoor classroom provides a place for students to learn and relax, and is home to Cobb County School District’s first chicken coop.
Awtrey students recently served as tour guides during “Eggstravaganza,” an event to introduce the space to the community. The outdoor classroom was created by Diane Andrew, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at the school.
Andrew transformed a courtyard into the classroom after attending a professional learning session focused on interactive classrooms. When she returned from the program, she took students on a virtual SKYPE field trip of a victory garden at a World War II museum. A poll conducted afterward showed students wanted to build the learning area.
Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black attended the classroom’s community debut and talked with students about the project. Black praised students’ interest in agriculture, and said he hopes some students will consider agriculture as a career.
“They’re captivated by the land, by the dirt, by the soil, by the science involved in growing and the biology with the poultry exhibit,” Black said. As part of the tour, Black tasted a smoothie made of fruit processed in a blender powered by a student riding a stationary bike.
Awtrey’s four chickens produce an average of a half-dozen eggs each day, which students collect. Students also tend a vegetable garden and pollinator patch, and care for animals.
Andrew plans to expand the outdoor classroom to teach the business side of agriculture. She wants students to operate a farmers’ market where they can sell their vegetables and free-range eggs.
This summer, with the help of the Cobb County Farm Bureau, Andrew will attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference.
“My plan is to go and find all these wonderful ways to teach using the outdoor space,” Andrew said. “I plan to come back from the conference with new and innovative ideas using Georgia standards to teach our students.”