A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on October 29 to officially open Byam Elementary School’s ”Outdoor Learning Center” in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Located in Byam’s central courtyard, the Outdoor Learning Center will be used as an outdoor classroom with an emphasis on ecology, biology, gardening, wildlife habitats, and recycling and resuse.
The Outdoor Learning Center includes a variety of bird feeders, bird houses, a birdhouse video camera system, a wireless weather station, rain gauge, butterfly garden, and solar-powered bird bath. In the future, the Outdoor Learning Center will be expanded to include an herb garden and composting center.
The transformation from courtyard to Outdoor Learning Center was spearheaded by Janet Askenburg and made possible by volunteer efforts, donations from local businesses, and a grant from the Chelmsford Arts and Technology Fund.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was led by Dr. Jane Gilmore, Byam Elementary School Principal, and attended by student representatives from each of the school’s classes, Byam School Association President Joanne Hayes, State Representative Jim Arciero, Chelmsford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Yeoman, Chelmsford Board of Selectmen Clare Jeannotte and Pat Wojtas, Chelmsford Art & Technology Fund Committee members Glenn Doherty and Evelyn Thoren, and Tom Christiano, the host of Chelmsford Telemedia’s show Politically Incorrect.
A favorite of the students and teachers is the unique and up-close view of an active bird nest, viewed via a live video feed from a nest box camera system. The birdhouse video camera sends images to a television in the school library, providing the children with an opportunity to watch nesting behavior without disturbing the birds. As part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Project Feeder Watch” program, students will be collecting and reporting wild bird species data to help scientists track movements of bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.
Custom birdhouses and bird feeders for the Outdoor Learning Center were provided by New England Birdhouse. The bird-friendly structures were built using recycled and reused materials, and were designed for durability and to match the school’s architecture. Both nest boxes and platform structures were built to encourage a variety of birds to nest in the area. The Outdoor Learning Center also features many different types of bird feeders including a hopper, platform, tube, hummingbird, suet cage, and log feeder.