Two local schools are strongly considering the idea of moving virtual classrooms into outdoor domes during the pandemic.
Students haven’t been inside Lake Bluff Elementary in Shorewood all school year after the district opted for virtual learning. A Shorewood parent has spent the past several months raising money to bring a massive outdoor dome to the school’s grounds so teachers and students can connect in person.
What may look like an igloo could soon be an outdoor exploration center for Shorewood elementary school students.
“We’re not carving ice, we’re actually building a well established safe structure,” Naomi Cobb said.
Cobb is an environmental teacher, so she knows the importance of outdoor education, but amid the pandemic when students are learning virtually, she spearheaded a plan to bring a geodesic to Lake Bluff Elementary so kids can gather together to learn rather than just through their computer screens.
“I recognize that especially for primary level education, contact and relationship and movement and senses is all an essential part of education and Zoom doesn’t do that very well,” Cobb said.
Cobb said the 39’ by 39’ dome is equipped with several windows for airflow, a clear top for solar heat and it’s big enough for 25 students and two teachers to socially distance inside. She said each class at both Shorewood elementary schools could meet there once a week so every student has the same opportunity.
“Teachers throughout the school would have a period of time so let’s say Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. is for first grade,” Cobb explained.
Cobb isn’t stopping with just one dome, she’s also raised the money to buy one for Milwaukee Environmental Science Academy which has already given the project a green light.
“It’s an M.P.S. school, it’s in a neighborhood that usually doesn’t get these kinds of additional discretionary opportunities and it’s an environmental science school so it was just a really good fit,” she said.
Back in Shorewood, School Board President Paru Shah said she loves the innovative idea to get students together during these trying times and that the outdoor dome would be here long after the pandemic, but the board still has to iron out whether future costs could be a problem.
“In terms of maintenance, insurance, furniture and furnishings, security and quite honestly we’re in a very difficult financial year next year,” Shah said.
Cobb said the domes are ready to order and could be here in six to eight weeks. She plans to continue raising money to cover installation. If you would like to contribute, Cobb said you just need to call the schools. Milwaukee Environmental Science Academy can be reached at 414-353-3830. Shorewood School District’s main line is 414-963-6900.