King’s English teacher Andrew Kemp is in the process of building an Outdoor Reading Theater on the school’s grounds. Kemp applied for an Innovative Educators Grant given by Community Connections Foundation in partnership with United Way and was awarded a $7,500 grant.
Earlier this school year, staff from Community Connections extended an opportunity for King’s teachers to apply for the grant and Kemp took advantage of it.
“The point of the reading theater is to get more students outside and in touch with nature more often. Research shows that even the presence of a tree outside a window can boost well-being and has cognitive benefits,” Kemp said. “Because so many of our classrooms do not have windows, I think it is important to have a way to get students in touch with nature.”
Attention restoration theory is the belief that people have a greater ability to concentrate after spending time in nature.
“Students need periods of attention restoration,” Kemp said. “We need to offer periods of involuntary attention along with the directed attention we give so much of. Without getting too into the research I’ll just say that creating more beautiful natural space on campus for students to relax and have class will offer great benefits.”
The theater will be an outside location for teachers to take their class instead of being in the building. The theater will add structure for teaching. There will be trees as a backdrop behind the seating.
“It’s like a small amphitheater three quarters round. It will be benches to seat a class and a spot in the middle for a teacher or whoever is presenting,” Kemp said. “Trees will filter out distractions and sound.”
Kemp and current juniors are responsible for construction of the reading theater. Construction will go through this May, and there will be an inauguration before the end of the school year.
“As much as possible I want the students to take ownership of the project and the work,” Kemp said. “It can be thought of as a service project in which students think not just of the benefit to themselves but to future Crusaders.”