This spring, Augustana University will break ground on a new outdoor classroom between the Froiland Science Complex and the Madsen Center. The project will be completed by fall 2019.
David O’Hara, Augustana’s director of sustainability, said that he has been pushing for an outdoor classroom for over a decade.
“I have often taught outside,” O’Hara said. “I teach outside whenever I can. I’ve been trying lots of different places around campus to see what works well.”
“I teach outside whenever I can.” — Dave O’Hara
Now, with the $375,000 sustainability grant anonymously given to Augustana last year, the university can make the project a reality.
O’Hara explained that the outdoor classroom can have a variety of uses, including teaching classes, theatrical or music performances, campus visits, religious gatherings and other group meetings.
The outdoor classroom will be built in a semi-circular shape with three levels of seating.
Each row of seats will be made from native South Dakota rock: the first row will be made with Sioux Quartzite, the second made with Black Hills Granite, and the top row made with Sandstone from the Dell Rapids area.
O’Hara said that using native South Dakota rock will make the classroom last longer and be more sustainable.
“When people build hotels today, most of those are built to last thirty years,” O’Hara said. “That’s a terrible way to build. [When I teach] in Greece or Guatemala, there are buildings that are thousands of years old that are still functional because they’ve been built sustainable, [with] local stone, almost no maintenance. That’s what I want to do here.”
Students in O’Hara’s fall Environmental Philosophy class helped conceptualize the project, including Erica Dorsett, a junior philosophy and English major.
“[O’Hara] wanted us to see the concept of an outdoor classroom from every angle,” Dorsett said. “From the use of it to the cost of it, to how many different people could use it.”
For her final project in the class, she drew a sketch resembling what the outdoor classroom will look like.
The drawing has been used as an example on the @augiesustain Instagram and Twitter to give the student body an idea of what the outdoor classroom will be like when it’s completed.
Lucas Wylie, a senior art major, worked on the official architecture plans during his fall internship at TSP.
Wylie helped design both the outdoor classroom and the Huddle/Siverson renovations, creating 3D digital models of the projects.
“It was nice because the projects they set up were spaces I was familiar with,” Wylie said. “Being an Augustana student, it’s kind of cool to help out at your school.”
The project will ceremonially break ground on Tuesday, April 23rd. That’s the day after Earth Day because this year the holiday lands on Easter Monday.
The construction of the outdoor classroom will be done by Foster Landscaping Inc., a Sioux Falls landscaping company. The entire project will cost about $25,000.