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Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Marks the Outdoor Classroom Opening!

The Independence School community and special guests celebrated the official opening of the school's new outdoor classroom with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Sept. 10.

What began in 2018 as a concept to have children spend more time learning outdoors on the school's 90-acre campus evolved into a plan to include an outdoor classroom.

Independence educators worked closely with Nature Explore, an organization providing training for taking learning outdoors, and reimagined a former Early Childhood playground as a 57,600 sq. ft. outdoor space with 14 distinct areas for music, art, movement, building, performance, water experiences, and more! The design even included a section where children can work with “messy materials!”

This initial plan was brought to life by Jonathan Ceci, landscape architect, who added a diverse collection of landscaping features representing the geographic elements of the school’s mid-Atlantic location, from the Piedmont region to the coastal plain. Independence also partnered with Wilmington’s Challenge Progam, who created some natural playground and seating areas.

At today's ceremony, Head of School Vicky Yatzus noted that the project could not have been possible without the generous support of area foundations, including the Marmot Foundation, Crystal Trust, and the McDonald Foundation, along with many individual donors from throughout the Independence community.

"The space has truly been the result of powerful partnerships," she said. "We are particularly appreciative of three alumni who were extremely supportive, from closing a gap in fundraising to site-planning and construction to project management. Special thanks to Ashley Quill Funk '95 and Vance Funk IV, current Independence parents, Ameilia Julian Wyant '90, President of Eastern States Corp. and current Independence parent, and Kevin Heitzenroder '85 owner of Turf Pro, Inc., and alumni parent." Special guests included State Representative Mike Smith, former Newark Mayor, and current Independence grandparent, Vance Funk III.

With the ceremony completed, Independence students will now enjoy the outdoor classroom as one of their many opportunities for learning and fun beyond the classroom walls on the Independence campus.

“To me, this classroom truly represents our tag line - Inspire Dream Achieve,” Mrs. Yatzus added.