Second Log Cabin Expands Outdoor Program

Second Log Cabin Expands Outdoor Program
Second Log Cabin Expands Outdoor Program

Before deconstruction, Kokomo Schools second log cabin originally was located in Laconia, Indiana; approximately one mile from the Ohio River in Harrison County. 

According to Michael Bailey of the Bailey Construction Company, this historical restoration of this 1830’s log cabin for the Kokomo School Corporation is a treat for him and his crew because the final product will be used by the community of Kokomo.

 “Reconstructing a log cabin that we know is going to be used as an outdoor classroom is both unusual and special for our crew,” Mr. Bailey explained. “We are creating a special entrance where the children can hang their coats with a place for their boots before they enter the cabin for class. Those children make us smile every day. They never fail to tell us “Hello” and “Goodbye” each day.”

In 2016, Kokomo School Corporation began its Outdoor Early Education Program at Boulevard Elementary. The program started with a 4-year-old preK class in 2016, and now has expanded to second grade. Thus, the need for the second log cabin.

The Outdoor classroom is loosely modeled after the Forest Kindergartens in Denmark. The goal remains to promote learning in an outdoor space where children are not limited in their inquiry and discovery by walls and a ceiling. These children used found objects in the natural environment to replace traditional toys and manipulatives … such as counting with rocks and sticks; climbing trees rather than climbing a slide; observing a fish in the outdoor lab pond rather than learning about a fish in a book.

The original log cabin, currently being used as an outdoor base while students are learning outside, was purchased in 1995 by Kokomo Schools, with help from the Kokomo Public Schools Education Foundation through community donations, and was dedicated in October 1996. The cabin was originally built between 1848 to 1850 and stood near the village of West Liberty in Howard County. That cabin’s reconstruction was overseen by builder Phillip Sullivan.

Corporation officials noted that this second log cabin allow the corporation to double the student capacity of the Outdoor Early Education Program and will allow four classes to participate. Hiking, climbing, problem solving, and collaboration are all part of the daily “outdoor time” from the Indiana State Standards and Indiana Foundational Standards, which are incorporated into the Outdoor curriculum and lesson plans.

“We hear discussion nationally about children who are “nature deficit” because they spend more time inside than outside; but, that is not the case at Kokomo Schools for these Outdoor students,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dorothea Irwin explained. “These 4 to 7-year-old students go outside in the wind, rain, and snow as they learn early in life that “there is no bad weather … just bad clothing.” Their school supply list includes: mud boots, rain gear, snow suits, and gloves.”

During the existence of the Outdoor program, Dr. Irwin noted that these children develop specialized skills.

“Outdoor program participants have shown wonderful problem solving skills, as well as being able to work in groups to complete a job,” Dr. Irwin said. “These children have developed stamina and grit, as well as being more adaptable to change, while they work well in teams. In the Outdoor program, you will not find a child with “nothing to do.” These children are engaged, animated, and excited about learning and sharing on a daily basis.”

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