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The Courtyard: Where Students Go to Grow

Elizabeth Glut, Student Journalist

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Everyday you walk through the “tunnel” to get to your class. You’re busy listening to music, thinking about an upcoming test, and greeting friends. Have you ever stopped and taken a look out the window?

Outside the window lies the courtyard.

Inside the courtyard there are various trees, paths, a greenhouse, and picnic tables. From the look of it, you may think the courtyard is not being used, but after speaking with Ms. Coates, a Rhinelander High School (RHS) science teacher who uses the courtyard, it was discovered that not only her class but other teachers and students around the school use it for learning purposes as well.

“My science classes use the courtyard starting mid-April. We use the courtyard two to three times a week. My science classes do a variety of different things from learning about plants, planting seeds to picking plants and planting them around the school, and even using the plants that are grown to donate to the community garden,” said Ms. Coates.

“In the summer time students from the special education department work in the courtyard, laying down wood chips and gravel on paths, putting in plants, pulling weeds, and painting picnic tables.” said Ms Van Ells, coordinator of the Summer Work Crew, “The summer work crew puts a lot of time and work into maintaining the courtyard and I think RHS students should be given the opportunity to use the courtyard more than it is being used now.” 

There are hundreds of possibilities when it comes to a school courtyard, which is encircled by four class rooms. Originally it was built and laid out to serve a purpose, but that purpose was lost due to remodeling.

“It was a way students got to class in a shorter amount of time by using the courtyard as a shortcut. Students had the freedom to eat out there and chat with friends”  said Ms Esslinger, a Science teacher at RHS.

Ms Esslinger said, this “shortcut” came to an end when the district made the choice to renovate RHS in 2011.

In the process of renovating they moved the commons/cafeteria area and built a fitness center. When the cafeteria moved to an “add on” spot in the front of the school, it caused the courtyard to become simply closed off and inconvenient. The connection between the gym and courtyard disappeared.

There are several different ways the courtyard could be used, and students like Abby Oettinger, Emily Mcfarland, and Jack Kovak have ideas of their own including being able to get a breath of fresh air during passing time, having study halls on nice days, doing Yoga classes, and using it as an incentive as well as a meeting place for clubs.

So the next time you walk through the “tunnel” take a look out the window. Maybe you have an idea of how the courtyard could be used, too.

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