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September 12, 2013

Outdoor educational institute comes to life in Windham

Educational institute takes shape on nearly 300 acres in Windham

WINDHAM — The indoor part of the Quarrybrook Outdoor Learning Center is going up off Roulston Road.

Crews yesterday started framing the two-and-a-half story, 18,000-square-foot building that will house the center.

But the real classrooms for the ambitious, regional institute are in the fields beyond its future walls.

“This is the only building on site,” executive director Kristina Ellis said. “Our goal is to keep the site as natural and as wild as possible.”

Quarrybrook is being developed by the North Andover-based El Hefni Technical Training Foundation.

The institute aims to provide ecology-related science enrichment classes for students at all grade levels in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Its work already has started.

“We’ve been working with a handful of private schools out of Lawrence,” Ellis said.

Stephanie Cross, head of science with the Lawrence Family Development Charter School, said more than 100 students have taken part in pilot programs at the institute.

“The space there is gorgeous,” Cross said.

Ellis was able to run an engineering related class for eighth-graders using catapults, while teaching fifth-graders about Earth science.

Cross said the programs benefitted her students.

“As an urban school, we don’t have the space to do that,” she said.

The nearly 300-acre property includes fields, forest land, a pond and a stone bridge. It’s about five minutes from Interstate 93.

“They just had a blast,” Cross recalled of participating students. “Everybody came back wet and happy.”

Ellis hopes to interest Windham public schools in participating in pilot programs, as Quarrybrook looks to become fully operational by spring.

“I’d say the pilot program for elementary and middle school education is moving into the active phase,” Ellis said.

Quarrybrook also has had students from Merrimack College on site and is in talks with Northern Essex Community College, Ellis said.

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