Chester County

Chester County Treehouse Classroom Takes Outdoor Learning to New Heights

"It's really expanding what it means to be a classroom -- what is a classroom"

A school in Chester County is taking outdoor learning to literal new heights by perching one of its classrooms among trees.

Named after a 21-year-old Upland Country Day School alumnus who died last year, "JP's Treehouse" is part classroom, part playground.

"It's a lot of 'Wows,' a lot of 'Oos,' a lot of 'Ahs,'" said head of school Daniel Hickey about students' reaction to the treehouse.

Laurie Brown thought of the project as a way of honoring the memory of her late son, JP Handley-Greaves. Handley-Graves loved his school in Kennett Square because they spent much of their time outside learning about nature.

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"He was an outdoor learner. He loved the outside. He loved learning. He learned a lot from nature and the outside," Brown said.

Now, the classroom that bears his name allows a new generation of students to appreciate nature as much as Handley-Graves did. There, students and teachers read in a netted lounging area, run through a rope bridge and conduct science experiments on the elevated porch.

Liam Gallagher, a teacher at Upland, wants to set up squirrel houses that are at eye-level to the kids, and he looks forward to the opening of an owl house, as well.

"It's really expanding what it means to be a classroom -- what is a classroom," Gallagher said.

Aside from the name, the treehouse also honors Handley-Graves with a cross-section of a log imprinted with a nautical compass. The compass symbolizes Handley-Graves' family's love of sailing and includes the word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which is what he wanted his dad to name their boat.

"It's just a great school and it gives me something to pour my heart into," Brown said.

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