The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and more than 100 volunteers stepped out into the community Friday afternoon to build an outdoor learning lab for the students at Brookfield Elementary School in Chantilly, Va.
The "Big Dig" was funded by the WRCF and hosted by Out Teach, a national nonprofit that coaches and inspires teachers to unlock student performance with the power of outdoor experiential learning.
"We're providing opportunities for kids to go outdoors and learn science and math, specifically, in real-world, hands-on ways," Out Teach CEO Jeanne McCarty said. "That kind of learning is easily solidified, and so kids retain it better, they understand it better and they also get excited about learning."
Following a brief opening ceremony, the volunteers split up into teams and worked through the morning on 10 different projects ranging from building to planting to painting. By lunchtime, the outdoor classroom was beginning to come together.
"This has just been grass for the last nine years, and I wanted to have an outdoor classroom," Brookfield Elementary Principal Mary Miller said. "And without Out Teach and the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, this would not have happened."
The entire rookie class volunteered to work on painting, planting, moving mulch, building structures for Brookfield Elementary as they helped give the students at Brookfield Elementary School a fun and interactive space to learn and grow.
Miller said all Brookfield Elementary students had the opportunity to sketch their own outdoor classroom, and that Out Teach would use a few of the students' ideas in their final design.
Fourth-grader Christina Truong was one of three winners voted on by her classmates. She said she was "shocked" and "very proud" of the accomplishment.
"I just thought of a classroom," said Truong, whose design can be seen below. "I just thought of little chairs and stuff, like since classrooms have a lot of desks and stuff."
Reinforcements arrived after lunch, as the Redskins' rookies joined teammate Tony Bergstrom and a host of other volunteers to put the finishing touches on their respective developments. Dwayne Haskins and Jimmy Moreland helped paint. Montez Sweat sharpened his gardening skills along with a trio of young Redskins fans.
"It means everything," Haskins said. "These little kids look up to the Washington Redskins ... and to see the excitement on their faces means a lot to me."
By mid-afternoon, all of their work culminated with the grand unveiling of the classroom -- complete with seating areas, white boards, raised vegetables and flowerbeds, a weather station, earth science stations, rain barrels, animal and insect habitats.
For students at Brookfield Elementary, there's now more ways to learn than ever before.
"We already have a schedule starting Monday," Miller said, "so every single kid will be able to enjoy this before the year is up."