Bringing the Classroom Outside

An initiative by Hall Fletcher Elementary in Asheville, North Carolina will bring a new, experiential learning opportunity to its students and the community.

Anyone interested in supporting the Outdoor Learning Center initiative may visit Hall Fletcher Elementary’s online fundraising campaign at (

ASHEVILLE, NC – May 26, 2015 – Hall Fletcher Elementary stands out among Asheville City Schools for many reasons. The site in West Asheville has had a school’s presence since 1925. It currently serves as the academic home for the largest percentage of children from low-income families (72%) and the largest percentage of students in the Program for Exceptional Children (17%). It is also the most racially diverse elementary school population in the system. Aside from statistics, however, Hall Fletcher is exceptional primarily because of the positive energy of its students, staff, and families.

As noted in the student pledge, this “zest for life and learning” is evidenced in the bright murals inside and out, the Jacob Lawrence-inspired banner in the entrance, the garden area, and other special spaces. Now the most significant and inspiring physical transformation of Hall Fletcher’s campus is taking place with the creation of the Outdoor Learning Center (OLC).

The OLC is a vision first dreamt almost ten years ago. It is finally coming to fruition with a community-wide effort spearheaded by Dr. Gordon Grant, Principal, and the Asheville Design Center. Dr. Grant supports the vitality within the school by creating a campus that is an asset for both the school and neighboring community. The OLC will be a wheelchair-accessible environment that reflects the school’s theme of math, science, and technology.

Following workshops with students, parents, staff and surrounding neighbors, the Asheville Design Center developed plans for the half-acre site to translate classroom lessons into outdoor educational experiences. Students will be involved in the creation of each element, applying the curriculum in a tangible way and instilling a deeper appreciation for their school’s campus.

All students will have an opportunity for experiential, creative learning in the OLC – from a biodiverse wetland area to a weather station to the architectural wonder of the Guastavino tile-arch domes. A 600 foot education walk will incorporate students’ curriculum-based art and the kinetic merry-go-round will act as an artesian well. A giant chessboard will entice novices to masters. As is the custom now, the community will be welcome to enjoy and learn in this engaging park.

Asheville Design Center has partnered with Asheville City Schools, Equinox Environmental, Jade Mountain Builder, stone mason Andy Brown, the Yale Club of WNC, and many other community supporters to account for over $284,000 in donated services. Funds of $177,000 are still required to see the project to completion.

The OLC will not only provide innumerable opportunities for the students of Hall Fletcher, it will also continue the deep-rooted significance of the school within the community.

Share this story to...