LEXINGTON, Ky. — Students at Franklin County High School will have a breath of fresh air while they learn outdoors.

What You Need To Know

  • Two sisters plan to shake up the classroom setting with an outdoor area for students to learn
  • One teacher, Adam Hyatt, who was a supporter of the plan, will live on through the space

  • Over a dozen trees and more will be planted in the area including blueberry bushes, which leaders say adds to the school’s focus on resource sustainability

After the pandemic’s challenges changed the way the schools across the country functioned, three years’ worth of planning has finally sprouted.

Trina Peiffer and her sister, Chris Schimmoeller, are two parents behind the gloves of the new outdoor classroom in Franklin County.

The two dedicated resources, time and more to showing students and invited the community to help plant what will be an outdoor class with trees, plants, and other nature-themed aspects like, “how to make them go into the dirt and not just circle and circle and circle.” Peiffer said. 

Trina Peiffer, Susan Hyatt, and Chris Schimmoeller are behind the outdoor classroom. (Spectrum News 1/Sabriel Metcalf)

The project began shortly after 2019 with a nearly six-figure budget that now functions on community funding. 

Franklin County High School Principal Chris Tracy is an alumnus and one person who understands the school's interest and the community who wanted to help.

“It’s become a landscaping project for some community members and classes. our biology classes and landscaping classes, our ag classes have come out and worked on it," Tracy said. 

Within a week, Peifer and Schimmoeller put their plan for students to learn outside the school walls into action.

“Because it’s not as pretty as these other ones, but the art club is going to come out and paint the surface of it and then epoxy it, so we’ll have some FCHS logo or something,” Schimmoeller said about the outdoor fixtures. 

The original plan was meant as a safe alternative route for teaching and learning during the pandemic.

While the idea is still present, the project gained a new meaning and holds a special memory of a long-time social studies teacher, Adam Hyatt, who lost his life in a car accident in 2019.

Hyatt's mother said he was a big supporter of the nature-themed class.

“I told Trina he would’ve wanted as many people from the community and as many students out here as possible,” Hyatt said about her son, who she said would have enjoyed seeing students join such an effort. 

Peiffer said Hyatt had an impression on kids like her son and was dedicated to being there for as many as possible. 

“Mr. Hyatt did things like teach Philip how to tie a bow tie. You know, I just wonder about wonderful ordinary things that he didn’t have to do. Mr. Hyatt didn’t have to get up and go to all those ball games and watch soccer matches you know." Peiffer said.

It's why they are extending the same kindness to the community and students. 

“The whole project has depended on that kind of goodwill and volunteer labor,” Peiffer said.

“The kids did a great job clearing the winter creeper from around these trees,” Schimmoeller added.

The outdoor space will include areas for individual classrooms and tables as well as seats carved from trees. (Spectrum News 1/Sabriel Metcalf)

Peiffer said the reward is in the finished product. 

“It's good for the students and the teachers right now even just helping create it, but now, once it’s done and they get to come out and have class outside and have all those benefits of outdoor learning," Peiffer said about the school's future spot.

Now, with customized wooden seats, tables and a lot of open green space, Hyatt's legacy will resonate in this permanent space.