Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD) celebrated the official opening of its Outdoor Learning Activity Zone at Melville Elementary School in Portsmouth with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, June 10.
Cutting the ribbon was Elizabeth Viveiros, who is currently Deputy Superintendent of the Portsmouth School Department and was principal at the school while the project was underway. Also present were representatives from project partners ERICD, RIDOT, and Thrive Outside, as well as community members, Portsmouth Town Council and School Committee members, and students and parents.
The Outdoor Learning Activity Zone at Melville acts as an outdoor classroom, which allows students to learn safely while adhering to social distancing protocols. People of all abilities can enjoy this garden because it is fully handicap accessible.
This project was made possible by a partnership between ERICD, Thrive Outside, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, and Melville School. ERICD District Manager, Sara Churgin, said, “We are so thankful to our amazing partners on this project. This classroom was a pilot for ERICD and partners, and we are now going to be building one in conjunction with a stormwater mitigation project at Kickimuit Middle School in Warren.”
Churgin said, “It was a beautiful day to finally get to celebrate. The classroom was completed and opened in 2020, which was perfect timing for students to learn safely, but we had not been able to celebrate its success until now. Over 1,000 students have already used it, and we can’t wait to welcome many more over the years.”
The installation at Melville Elementary School in Portsmouth takes up one third of the school’s back field. Its design incorporates a rain garden, which collects polluted stormwater that would normally flow into Melville Pond, an integral water source in the Narragansett Bay Watershed. Each year it will remove an average of .48 pounds of phosphorus, .33 pounds of zinc, 4.28 pounds of nitrogen.