Old Trail School Breaks Ground on Outdoor Classroom

In line with its strategic goal of providing transformative student experiences through distinctive, nature-based and experiential learning, Old Trail School officially broke ground on the Marilyn and Tom Merryweather Outdoor Classroom this morning.
Designed by Peninsula Architects, the 2,000-square foot facility will feature an outdoor covered classroom with open seating for up to 50 students, an indoor multipurpose space for another 49 students, and two individual restrooms. Perhaps the most dynamic feature, however, is an accessible living roof that shelters the spaces below.
The multi-purpose structure will be a significant addition to the outdoor education programming at Old Trail, which is the only independent school in the country located within a national park. Made from timber, steel, glass and concrete, the design of the building will provide a space where students can engage the outdoors, enhance their learning environment, and dynamically complement the natural setting of the surrounding Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“Today is a significant day in the future of our school,” said Head of School Sarah Johnston during the ceremony. “It is a day that symbolizes forward momentum and the enhanced connection to our place in the Valley and all it has to offer. We are grateful to all the families who supported this project and to Tom Merryweather, who has been actively involved from the start.”
Merryweather is the lead benefactor of the project and a former head of school at Old Trail.
“This project represents the culmination of several years of planning and fulfills a critical piece in Old Trail’s commitment to developing intellectually curious and forward-thinking students,” said OTS Board President Missy McGinnes, a 1986 graduate of the school. “Old Trail is also committed to providing transformational student experiences and this project certainly fulfills that as well – especially with regard to a nature-based education.”
The site, which is located adjacent to the school’s 11-acre organic farm, was mobilized last week and construction has already begun. A curriculum is currently in development that will provide students and faculty countless opportunities to embrace the concept of ‘bringing the park in and getting the students out’. Discussions are also ongoing about using the site to offer an outdoor preschool. The expected completion date for the project is June 2020.
What better way to engage students with the outdoors than with a building that engages the landscape and encourages creative thinking,” said Nik Sirna, Peninsula Architects Principal. “The Marilyn and Tom Merryweather Outdoor Classroom is much more than a place for a teacher to hold a class. This building is intended to host multiple functions simultaneously while each bit of space has its own aesthetic.”

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Old Trail School is an independent day school (toddler through grade eight) located in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.