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.

"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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