PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – Surfside Middle School students can now get more hands-on lessons in a special classroom outdoors.
The school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the new space.
The outdoor classroom can be used for any course, but students will have a chance to learn more about the environment.
“Everything we do is not necessarily based inside the classroom, and the classroom is not just some four walls, brick, and some water to the environment, and we’re an environmental school,” said Surfside Middle School Principal Matt Pitts.
The outdoor classroom is dedicated to Charlie Pate. Pate died five years ago and still lives strongly in the Surfside community. Pate’s family donated the money to build the unique classroom in his honor.
“It was the perfect opportunity to honor him,” said his wife, Denna Pate. “He loved the outdoors and loved learning. He was a lifelong learner. He believed in just giving back to the community, so this was the perfect place.”
The new outdoor classroom has a hydroponics system to raise catfish and mini greenhouses to grow various plants. This even includes tomato seeds from the International Space Station.
“This is lifelong learning,” said Pitts.” That’s what’s so great about this. It doesn’t have to be done just inside. You know, these teachers let the kids know learning can take place anywhere you are.”
Seaside Middle School officials said the vision for the outdoor classroom had taken 20 years to make happen.
“They all wanted something where students could be enhanced learning outside,” said Pate. “It always was a dream of Surfside to have something like this, and when Mr. Pitts started thinking about it and revisiting it last year, it just fell into place.”
Surfside Middle School officials said the project for the outdoor classroom cost anywhere between 20 to 30 thousand dollars.