Class in the Grass in Nacogdoches is cool spot to learn

Teacher Kylie Altier leads a lesson in Class in the Grass, an outdoor education spot paid for grants Altier was awarded. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Teacher Kylie Altier leads a lesson in Class in the Grass, an outdoor education spot paid for grants Altier was awarded. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Teachers from all grades use the outdoor learning spot. It's offered for community use, too. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Teachers from all grades use the outdoor learning spot. It's offered for community use, too. (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Nacogdoches first-grade teacher wanted to give back to her students and the community right where they live.

It was last summer when Kylie Altier submitted grant requests for an outdoor classroom at Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary.

Her requests paid off. East Texas News got the scoop about the Class in the Grass.

"I feel like the second we step outside, you see their faces light up," Altier said.

"Class in the Grass is our class in the grass," said Ethan Green, a Brooks Quin Jones student.

Altier came up with the idea when she noticed stressed-out students.

"Like more in their little six or seven years - I teach first graders - than I've been through in my adult life," Altier said. "Sometimes stress at home happens. Sometimes stress at school with big testing happens."

The observant teacher wanted a happy place for students. As always, money was a factor, so over the summer, she applied for a Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant.

"Then in January, this $4000 check arrived in the mail," Altier said.

Soon after, Whole Foods sent money for an outdoor garden.

"And that was another $2,000," Altier said.

Then Texas A&M AgriLife's Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go shared a curriculum, plus ...

"$750 to help us get started with the gardening as well," Altier said.

Stephen F. Austin State University students and middle school students helped with construction.

There's a stage for a free spirit, lots of picnic tables to think things out, and benches for all kinds of outdoor learning.

"Like three weeks ago I was out here, and I was teaching a writing lesson, and fourth grade came out here, and they were tending to their vegetables," Altier said. "And then, third grade came out here, and they were doing like observation journals. And there were literally three full classes out here. And we just co-existed."

Indoor classrooms have a purpose, but outdoor classrooms provides the fun in learning.

"And inside it's a little bit of space," Green said. "It's like being trapped in a box, but outside it's an eternity."

It's a place where youngsters are told, "Think outside, no box required."

Kylie Altier's efforts were noticed. She moved to Nacogdoches from Alabama a year ago, and in that short time, she's already earned the district's elementary teacher of the year award. Before that, she was named Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary's teacher of the year, too.

To check out the BQJ Class in the Grass Facebook page, click here.

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