October 16 was a long awaited day for Central School, with the school hosting a morning celebration to officially unveil the outdoor classroom built as the grand prize in the 2012 MAJESTA Trees of Knowledge competition.
Earlier this year Central poured heart and soul into the competition and took extraordinary efforts to earn enough on-line votes to edge the runner-up entry Sussex Elementary School. The vote tally went back and forth with each school holding the distinction of being the top entry, but a final week push gave Central the on-line voting victory. However, Central's gazebo, the hub of the $20,000 Outdoor Classroom, was named Fort Sussex in honour of the efforts of Sussex Elementary School and the community of Sussex, New Brunswick during the competition.
"Today really is special," admitted Jim Schedler, Vice-President Marketing for MAJESTA, who was on hand for the unveiling. "What was great about this is the community is much bigger than Swift Current. What I saw was you got the Premier on involved. You got the mayor's across the province involved. You got all of Saskatchewan rallying around you because I think everyone recognized this was such a positive thing."
Schedler said there are many benefits that an outdoor classroom has on students.
"Today you see so many kids learn about the outdoors from watching movies and looking on-line. Part of this program is to actually get them outside, engaged, active, involved, and you can see it in their eyes. They're enthused. They're energized. Let's face it, what kid wouldn't want to learn in an outdoor classroom?"
Swift Current was the second winner of the Majesta Trees of Knowledge, with the inaugural competition won by St. Paul Elementary School in Beaconsfield near Montreal.
Schedler highlighted that this project is one of a variety of stewardship projects for the company which produces consumer tissue products along with specialty wood products.
"Our brand is 'the tree-sponsible brand', and we plant three trees for every one that we use. So tree planting is really important to us - the oudoor sustainability. Trees truly are a renewable resource if managed properly. So this is really part of our core values and part of our culture. It ties in so well to what we're about as a company. We're really enthusiastic about the support of this program."
Central Principal Bryan Braun was excited to see the official unveiling finally occur. Students showed their appreciation by sharing songs and cheers before rotating through a series of learning stations during the day.
"It turned out really well. I think everything, the kids singing and just having this space and finally opening it up officially is a good feeling."
Braun pointed out the students were enjoying the outdoor classroom setting.
"The kids are certainly benefiting," Braun said. "It turned out pretty much to plan, so we're really pleased with it."
He expects their ideal outdoor setting will also be used by the larger city population, as the outdoor amenities are not exclusively for student use, and he envisions the location being popular during the summer as a lunch spot and used by summer visitors.
"There will be little tweaks throughout that we might find that we have to do, but we have a good base for hopefully a wonderful spot that cannot only be enjoyed by students, but this is essentially another little park for our community."