The Blue Springs Freshman Center will have a new outdoor classroom for the upcoming 2014-15 school year that was mainly designed by its students.

This 30-by-30-foot outdoor learning space, otherwise known as a "learnscape," will be cater-cornered at the north end of Vesper Field, across the street from the Freshman Center, 2103 N.W. Vesper Street in Blue Springs. Its ampitheater-like design features flexible seating, awning, a glass writing board, as well as a rain collection container on its roofing to water a nearby rain garden. Freshman teachers of all subjects, along with next-door Thomas Ultican Elementary School classes, will be able to use the classroom to enhance their lessons.

Freshman Center Principal Brandon Martin said his school was chosen to have the outdoor classroom because every student in the Blue Springs School District will have the opportunity to attend the ninth grade center at one time or another. The outdoor classroom project that is currently under construction was a collaborative effort between students and local architectural firm Hollis and Miller, he said.

"They have been very generous," said Martin about Hollis and Miller. "We’re grateful."

John Brown of Hollis and Miller said six to eight staff members of the architectural firm will be donating their labor eight hours each week until the classroom is completed "sometime in July." And along with their labor, Hollis and Miller also furnished the materials - both donated and budgeted - used to construct the classroom, plus consulted with students of Jennifer Ewan’s engineering class for the outdoor classroom’s design.

The project was a chance to give back to the Blue Springs School District, said Nicole Young of Hollis and Miller. The district, she said, is one of their largest Missouri clients. Hollis and Miller have been involved in community outreach projects the past two years in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The previous project was in Olathe, Kansas, and now this year Blue Springs was selected, she said.

Designing the learnscape sparked the students’ interest and creativity, Martin and Ewan said. Since January, students in Ewan’s engineering class have been busy brainstorming ideas and designing the classroom. Groups of students proposed ideas, which eventually led the entire class to select one design.

"Give kids a concept with a few parameters," Martin said, "they run wild."

Ewan added that students were working on the project 45 minutes before the start of class nearly every day during the past school year. Her class also visited the Hollis and Miller offices to help finalize the outdoor project.

But what do students think about the new outdoor classroom? A refreshing change of pace, former freshmen Dakota Faulkner, Sarah Sherich and Peyton Ultican all said.

"Much better."

"Something different instead of the usual ‘in-and-out.’"

"It beats staying inside."