Hammering together a treehouse. Digging trails. Building a teepee.

These may not sound like typical end-of-the-semester assignments, but for students enrolled in Dr. Andrew Bailey’s Outdoor Leadership class, they were completing more than coursework. They were building an outdoor learning area to be enjoyed by dozens of students at Red Bank Elementary School.

Throughout the semester, the students worked on designs for the space, which includes an outdoor shelter, treehouse, hammocks, trails and more. During the last few weeks of the semester, they took what was once an overgrown area next to the school’s parking lot and transformed it.

Bailey’s students also took cues from the children who will be using the space. Several first-grade teachers had their students draw what their ideal outdoor space would look like.

“Some of their ideas were incredible. Three or four students drew a treehouse. There were bridges, tunnels, a teepee and a nest. So we’re trying to incorporate all of those things,” Bailey says.

Jay Hennebaul works in the Outdoor Leadership class to build an outdoor space at Red Bank Elementary School.

Large construction projects like this give his students much-needed skills, he adds.

“These are skills that people going into the outdoor industry are going to need. This is the type of project that they would be involved in and they need to be able to use tools. They’re not going to get a job if they don’t know how to handle a drill,” Bailey says.

Though student Jay Hennebaul calls himself “outdoorsy,” he’d never built a treehouse before enrolling in Bailey’s class. After doing research that involved watching a lot of videos on YouTube and creating a design that didn’t work the first time, he’s determined to finish the project.

“It’s been interesting and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a lot of fun taking this class,” he said. “Now, I’m invested in it. This treehouse is my baby. I’m going to be out here, staying as long as I need to get it done.”

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