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Thorpe student creates outdoor classroom

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    Kaleb Zelinsky, Joshua Cruz and Jayden Rinker-Bond enjoy the new outdoor classroom at the Penn-Kidder Campus. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
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    Penn Kidder student Gavin Johnson uses the whiteboard in the new outdoor classroom at Penn Kidder Campus as (from left) Zeb, Jeff, Kellee Jo and Siobhan Kleintop. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
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    Third grade students look on as Kellee Jo, Zeb and Siobhan Kleintop use the new whiteboard.
Published May 19. 2017 05:09AM

When the weather breaks each spring, it isn’t too long before students start asking to have classes outside.

But few schools in our area actually have a place to accommodate them.

The Penn-Kidder Campus sought to change that recently, with help from a high school senior completing his senior project.

On Thursday, Jim Thorpe Area High School Senior Zeb Kleintop unveiled an outdoor classroom, complete with whiteboard and benches.

“The kids are just thrilled to have this opportunity to come out here. As a principal it’s exciting to know they have it too,” Penn Kidder principal David McAndrew said.

The new classroom, located just outside the building, is already getting a lot of use. When the weather is warm enough, teachers in all grade levels at the school can sign up to use the space.

McAndrew said that they want to encourage the students to seek knowledge all the time, whether they are in the classroom or at home. The school is already pursuing that with its one-to-one iPad program.

“You don’t have to be in a classroom to learn. Everywhere they go they should have opportunities to learn, and really take advantage of it,” McAndrew said.

Mary Bly, a longtime teacher who now substitutes in the school district, said it would be a great addition to the school.

“I’ve never ever seen this. For these people to do such an inspirational thing for the school is amazing,” Bly said.

All Jim Thorpe seniors are required to complete a senior project. Some of Zeb’s classmates held blood drives, or volunteered for their local fire department.

His idea came from the school. Through his mother, Zeb got on board. He assembled the benches and a wooden structure to enclose the whiteboard. The teachers and staff at Penn Kidder, including his mother and sister, held a bake sale and dress down day to fund it.

“I thought, wow that’s a really nice idea, I’d like to give back to the school that taught me,” he said.

The weather played a role — three rainy weekends made it difficult to work. Zeb said when he dug the post holes, it was raining so hard that they would fill with water. But he got it done in time for graduation.

“I wouldn’t have been able to walk at graduation,” he said.

On Thursday, the weather couldn’t have been better for the classroom’s debut. It also happened to coincide with Outdoor Classroom Day, where students across the United States and beyond studied outside. Kleintop said that while many of his classmates would have liked to study outside, JTAHS doesn’t have a space like Penn Kidder’s.

“There’s not really a place there, maybe next year a senior will do that,” he said.

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