By Maggie Dunning
Staff reporter

The weather is almost perfect and you would rather be outside enjoying the day rather than sitting in the classroom.

The social science division won this year’s student government association departmental grant worth $1000 and the campus improvement grant worth $1000 to create an outdoor classroom.

Anastasia Prokopis, business senior, is SGA president. She said funding for the grants comes out of SGA’s budget. The SGA budget consists of 40 percent of student activities fee. The other 60 percent is allocated to STUFU.

The 40 percent that SGA gets is then split into two different budgets, which are operational and organizations. The operational budgets allow SGA to offer public events and grants. The organizational funds go toward 16 to 20 different organizations on campus.

Jessica McIver, psychology senior, is conduct advisor for SGA. She said, the senate considered four departmental grant and two campus improvement grant applications.

The other grants were:

  • Hip-wader boots for the aquatic biology field.
  • Technological upgrades for chapel services.
  • A new sound system in the Darbeth rehearsal hall.
  • A small park addition to the Wallingford lawn.

The senate looked at what the applicants wanted to do and how much it would cost. Each senator voted on a grant they thought was most deserving of the money.

McIver said, “When SGA developed the grant we wanted to make sure that it benefitted most of the students or all of the students so any student can use it.”

Prokopis said, “I think it gets them out of the traditional classroom style and more open to different kind of learning styles. It gives everyone an opportunity to learn and just kind of enjoy being outside and participate.”

Cheryl Rude, chair of the social science division led the grant application process.

The thought process for developing an outdoor classroom started last August. She said, “Different faculty had tried before to have class outside, because students like that. They’re always like, ‘Can we go outside? It’s so nice.’ Especially in the spring, you notice it way more, but there’s not really a great place for that.”

Well now there is. Rude and other social science faculty built and painted six new benches that can be made into three tables. They put them behind Mossman in a little green patch of space.

“I think it’s a morale-oriented thing. It’s a different environment. I think some people will feel a new sense of paying attention in a different way. They like a change of scenery, change of venue,” said Rude.

An outdoor classroom will present some new challenges.

Rude said, “I think all of us will probably have to use it and then see ‘Ok well its really better if you do this out there. These kinds of things work well out there. These kinds of things don’t work well out there.’”

McIver said the outdoor classroom was the right choice.

Prokopis said, “I also think this one was a lot more sustainable for the future. It didn’t really require a lot of maintenance.”

Rude said, “I think that people think that it’s kind of a neat thing to do.”

The benches are in place and can be used. There are still some things to do before the outdoor classroom is ready. The division wants to add landscaping to help the outdoor classroom feel more like a place rather than just a space.

Rude said that SGA’s grant allowed the department to hire Alex Gottlob, class of 2000, who has a landscaping and design business. Rude said, “He’s going to be doing the dirt moving work and then Sodexo is going to be doing a little electrical work for us.”

The division still needs to plant trees and grasses to encircle the space to make it feel more like a classroom.

Rude said that she and Gottlob decided to wait until the fall to do the planting.  Getting people to water plants during the summer can be a gamble. “People are hit and miss in the summer time,” said Rude.

Instead the division faculty and maybe a few students will plant three trees and 16 large grasses in the fall.

“They are all going to be purchased with the grant and paid for, but we won’t actually plant them until the end of September. The likelihood of them thriving and living he’s said is a better call,” said Rude.

The classroom will also be getting an outdoor outlet for students and faculty to use. “In case people are out there and need a laptop or something charging that kind of thing. We want it to have access to electricity,” said Rude.

The electrical work for the classroom should be done by graduation. Rude looks forward to the complete outdoor classroom.

“Kansas, you know, it’s tough. I think in using it, I think we’ll have to plan to use it and want to use it and try to use it but I think we’re also going to be very flexible about it too,” said Rude.

Maggie Dunning is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at margaret.dunning@sckans.edu.