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  • Writer's pictureEllen Bashor

Bringing the Classroom Outdoors

Through the Prescott Schools Trail, PUSD and the Community Nature Center are working together to create a ‘very unique,’ hands-on learning environment

By Tara Fort • Photo by Trisha Shaffer

For the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD), 2020 posed challenges that resulted in many forms of creativity to further the education of the community’s youth. One of these creative ventures—and a collaborative effort with the City of Prescott—resulted in the development of the Prescott Schools Trail, a new section of the City of Prescott Trails System that travels behind Abia Judd and Granite Mountain Schools and links to the Community Nature Center (CNC), providing plenty of outdoor learning spaces and amphitheaters.

Ellen Bashor, aka Ranger Ellen, CNC Education Director for the City of Prescott, said, “PUSD and The Community Nature Center have a rich and collaborative history starting in 1974 when PUSD purchased the eighteen acres next to Granite Mountain School using a federal grant and making the CNC part of the design of the school’s campus.”

The land was later sold back to the City in 2005 but has experienced recent revitalization.

Teresa Bruso, Principal for Granite Mountain School, said, “We are fortunate that this project facilitates the ability to create an outdoor classroom environment for our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) classes.”

Granite Mountain School—one of the only 5th and 6th grade schools in the nation that is fully STEAM accredited—served as the perfect backdrop for the project.

Bashor said, “I had reached out to the City of Prescott and PUSD regarding a potential partnership to utilize the Community Nature Center as a safe learning space to help navigate the 2020-2021 school year. I found myself thinking about ways to help the community return safely to in-person learning to support students and families during the tough times in 2020, propelled by my knowledge and passion of outdoor and environmental learning.”

Added Bruso, “Despite COVID, the partnership with Ellen and the City has allowed us to implement this very unique hands-on learning environment for our students.”

The Prescott Schools Trail is open to the public outside of school hours from 4 p.m. until dark Monday through Friday and is open to everyone on weekends.

Bashor said, “As an Open Space Preserve, we are public land, which means that, like a public school, we want to welcome everyone in our community as shared stakeholders in the spaces we collectively support regardless of background, ability, identity or opportunity. As a public entity, welcoming and including everyone is very important to us.”

For more information about Prescott Unified School District, visit For more information about the Community Nature Center contact, or visit the Prescott Community Nature Center Facebook Page.

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