Oceanside High School Castleton creates outdoor learning space from vacant arboretum

There are tanks which will hold koi fish, crayfish and turtles. There is also a large screen for learning and there is Wi-Fi.

Cecilia Dowd

Oct 4, 2023, 11:28 PM

Updated 196 days ago

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The Oceanside Union Free School District has had an arboretum for decades, but it was in need of some sprucing up.
Students from Oceanside High School Castleton, an alternative high school, worked with their teachers to create a unique outdoor learning center. It’s called “ORCA,” or the Outdoor Research Center in the Arboretum.
Younger students from the district will benefit from the outdoor classroom, which has a stream table where they will learn about erosion. There are tanks which will hold koi fish, crayfish and turtles. There is also a large screen for learning and there is Wi-Fi.
The high school students built signs, picnic tables and a shed. They are creating a greenhouse and ORCA has plenty of plants.
Student Isabella Robateau, who helped create the center with other students, praised the “hands-on learning.” She said she found out she was capable of things she did not think she would be able to do. Student Nic Ferrato said the project meant everything to him.
Going forward, James Scannell, a science teacher at OHS Castleton, said in the mornings the Castleton students will prep the site before the younger students visit for their lessons. They’ll be ready with microscopes, fishnets, clipboards — whatever’s needed for the day.
Chris Harkins, also a science teacher at OHS Castleton, said: “It’s really something that no other district has.” He said students will be able to use the space for years to come.
There was also community involvement in getting the center ready. Residents volunteered to weed, plant and mulch and Oceanside Sanitation donated tree stumps following a storm.


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