Dinkelmeyer School adds new outdoor learning structure


Students at John G. Dinkelmeyer Elementary School in North Bellmore came back to a new outdoor learning structure after spring break. Arriving just in time for the warm weather, the outdoor learning structure is already a big hit with the students.

The school’s PTA funded the creation of structure, beginning back in the 2021-22 school year. Principal Danica Brugge wanted the blacktop repaving to be done before they could move forward with this project.

“The outdoor learning structure is comprised of a canopy and four tables with benches,” Brugge said. “All of the equipment is blue and yellow, which are Dinkelmeyer’s school colors.”

During the pandemic, teachers were told to bring their students outside and this structure is born from that time. It helped the school realize outdoor learning was a change worth keeping.

“Outdoor learning spaces provide so many opportunities to extend the learning that goes on in a classroom, we were seeing health related benefits to learning outdoors,” Brugge said. “We noticed it was invigorating and important for their brains to be able to function well during the school day.”

Under the guise and creativity of past Parent Teacher Association president, Wendi Murphy, the school was able to move forward with this idea and start fundraising.

The 2021-22 PTA donated $28,572 from various fundraising events throughout the years.

“In 2020, during Covid we did cushions for the kids to do outdoor learning, and that really sparked the idea being the first step of incorporating learning with outside,” Murphy said.

With the amount that the PTA fundraised a new playground wasn’t obtainable much to the parent’s hope. This project was started in 2022 when the funds were voted on in order to move forward with the contracts.

“I gave multiple options of potential ideas of what to do with the money and I had gotten quotes from vendors previously,” Murphy said. “It was the outdoor learning structure that had gotten the most votes.”

Fourth grade teacher Nicholas Assande has been bringing his class to the space, where they take part in literary discussions while also enjoying their snacks. 

“Movement is necessary for children, and moving to the outdoor space and back to the classroom is beneficial for them,” Assande said.

The structure provides what you would need in the classroom but with a different feeling, it allows the students and teachers to feel more at ease rather than sitting on the ground. It’s another variable in how the students get movement throughout the day, to stimulate the brain.

“The students are looking for something different than staying in the classroom all day, it creates another option for a change in environment,” Assande said.

Each kid is different but the overall response to the structure has been positive and appreciated.

“So much of what we do in the school day can be brought outside,” Brugge said. “We now have a dedicated outdoor classroom and we are extremely grateful to the PTA for making this a reality.”