Killington, Local News, Local Organizations

How the KMS outdoor classrooms came to life

Richard Morse and his students used what they had and kept it simple

By Shelby Graves, Grade 10 at Killington Mountain School

While sitting in school, wouldn’t you want to be able to have the opportunity to learn outside while looking at the beautiful blue sky and fresh blooming flowers? Here at Killington Mountain School, math, science, and engineering teacher, Richard Morse, made this possible.

For years, Morse had wanted to build outdoor classrooms for the school, but was never able to get the idea off the ground. Then Covid-19 struck, and he decided to propose the idea again. He explained that it would be beneficial to have outdoor classrooms in a pandemic because it would spread people out and make a safe learning environment for everyone.

This time, he wholeheartedly got approval.

While many builders start with an idea then buy the materials, Morse did the opposite. The design of the buildings was solely based on materials that were available. Morse began cutting down trees in December of 2019. When the school closed in March of 2020 due to Covid-19, Morse decided it was the perfect time to turn his hemlock and pine trees into lumber. It took five months, but he had turned all of the lumber into boards. Screws, gravel, cement blocks, and bird houses were all bought from area shops.

Courtesy KMS
The first outdoor classroom built at KMS was dubbed “Simplicity.” An artful sign was made.

During the creation of the classrooms, Morse and his students only encountered a few small problems. The first was a big stump in the middle of where they wanted to build, but luckily this was an easy fix. Morse and his students briskly thought of a solution after brainstorming: they were going to work around the stump and turn it into a chair once the building was complete. They faced another problem when Morse realized that they didn’t have as many boards as they originally thought. They were able to simply change up the design a bit so that they would have enough boards to finish the project. Morse said that they enjoyed having to think of another design because it was fun and creative.

After completing the classrooms in September of 2020, Morse’s students helped him name the classrooms and also created signs for the buildings. They named the first one “Simplicity.”

“Simplicity relates to the forest setting and mimics what the forest teaches us,” Morse explained.

The other classroom, which is located on a hill farther away from the school, was named “Aloha.” They decided on this name because aloha is a way of saying hello, but also is a form of farewell.

“Aloha is more than a word, it’s a way of life,” Morse said.

After deciding upon the names of the classrooms, each one of Morse’s students created a letter for the signs —however they wanted to and however they felt fit the meaning of the name.

Richard Morse and his students at KMS built the classrooms by using what they had and made it simple.

Morse said that he loved having the opportunity to build the classrooms, and enjoys using them even more than he thought he would, adding: “Remember to enjoy and make use of the simple things, be less serious and more sincere, subtract the obvious and add the meaningful.”

Courtesy KMS
“Aloha” was the second classroom built, a name that signifies a way of life that fits with KMS.

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!