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Outdoor Classroom Built Around Holocaust Tree

A new outdoor classroom at Northbrook Junior High was officially opened on Oct. 20 as retired superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt cut the ribbon on the space built in recognition of his 15-year tenure in Northbrook District 28.

The Terezin Tree is a focal point of the outdoor classroomAdjacent to the organic garden, the outdoor classroom includes seating and a teacher's desk made of cut rock; pebble walkways; native shrubs; and perennials. The gathering space is centered around the Terezin Tree, a silver maple that is a direct descendent of a tree planted in the Terezin Concentration Camp and nurtured by children during the Holocaust.

Longtime Northbrook residents Sam and Dede Harris donated the Terezin sapling to serve as a valuable educational tool and a symbol of courage and hope.  It was planted on June 1, 2017, and has grown from a sapling to an established tree.

“Creating a student gathering space around the tree so that it can serve as a place for reflection and learning was a goal for Dr. Hewitt. Today we celebrate his contributions to Northbrook District 28 with this new outdoor classroom,” said Board President Tracy Katz Muhl at the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by staff and community guests.

The $27,000 outdoor classroom was funded in part by donations of each school PTO and individual donations in honor of Dr. Hewitt. The space was designed and built by J.D. Mathein of Green City Gardens, located in Northbrook.

“I’ve said several times during my tenure here that what makes District 28 so special are the people – the staff, the Board members, the parents, the children and the entire community,” Dr. Hewitt said at the ceremony. “So here we stand, and thanks to all of you, this dream of mine and others is real, and as I gaze about, I can picture in my mind teachers and students in the garden and in this beautiful classroom, using and enjoying what we’ve created.  Thank you!”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kris Raitzer spoke about Dr. Hewitt’s leadership.

“My hope for our district’s work, including in this beautiful outdoor learning space, is that we are able to live up to the ideals you exemplify in your work and in your life.  It’s an honor to have worked beside you and to celebrate you in this special space named in your honor,” she said. 

Dr. Hewitt cuts the ribbon on the outdoor classroom

Retired Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt cuts the ribbon to open the new Outdoor Classroom at Northbrook Junior High on Oct. 20. The project was funded in part by community and staff contributions in recognition of Dr. Hewitt’s 15-year tenure at District 28. Joining Dr. Hewitt are, from left, J.D. Mathein of Green City Gardens; Board of Education Secretary Jennifer Gallinson; Board President Tracy Katz Muhl; Board Vice President Michelle Kohler; Board member Mara Silver-Schack and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kris Raitzer.