By Michael Gelbwasser, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Dr. Charles Gobron will inspire Albert S. Woodward Memorial School students outdoors, as he did in the classroom and school district for more than 40 years.
A new outdoor classroom was dedicated at Woodward Oct. 6, in a ceremony attended by school officials, staff, community members and members of Gobron’s family.
“I am overwhelmed. I am surprised. And I am very, very touched. This is so nice and so unexpected,” Gobron said.
Gobron retired from the Northborough-Southborough district June 30. He most recently served as school superintendent for more than seven years, and previously taught at Woodward.
A $14,000 grant from the Southborough Education Foundation supported the outdoor classroom, which was created by Christopher Jenkins, a landscape designer who owns Christopher Jenkins, LLC, a landscape and masonry design and construction firm.
“It’s truly fitting that it’s an outdoor classroom. And it’s a beautiful garden. Because for 40-something years Dr. Gobron has planted the seeds of knowledge in all of our students. He’s been there as they’ve grown, and nurtured and nourished their soul, their spirit and their mind,” School Superintendent Christine Johnson said.
Principal Jim Randell said that he and second-grade teachers Lisa Goulet, Allison Garand and Lori Winer had discussed creating the outdoor classroom and learning space “to be inspirational, and enhance the learning experience for our students.”
“We knew there were many curriculum areas, such as science, math and writing where this could be very useful, and allow us to be creative in planning our lessons,” Randell said.
The organizers hoped to get a Southborough Education Foundation (SEF) grant toward the project, “but quickly realized that what we wanted would be more expensive than what we could actually afford,” Randell said.
SEF officials suggested expanding the project – with “one catch: would we be willing to dedicate it to Dr. Charles Gobron?” he recalled. “Would we? We were thrilled at this request, and couldn’t think of a more deserving person to dedicate this beautiful space to.”
SEF member Kathy Cook said her group unanimously supported dedicating the space to Gobron.
“Of all the grants I’ve been involved in, this is my favorite because of what it is and because it’s dedicated to you,” Cook said.
The new classroom, located at the back of the school, resembles a tiny amphitheater. Stone benches, a charming bridge and seasonal plants are some of the features.
“We actually used a fair amount of recycled materials in the project which included the antique granite steps that are over 100 years old and salvaged from the demolition of the former Wellesley High School,” Jenkins said. “The granite cobbles are also recycled from the streets of Boston and are over a century old themselves. The boulders are all native and meant to make the park feel like it’s been here for the past 50 years. All of the granite pillars are hand split with steel feather and wedges just like what masons have done in centuries past.”
Gobron and two of his grandchildren, Abby and Benjamin Collins, cut the ribbon.
Gobron said that when the project was discussed in June, “I felt what an incredible project, because students of the Woodward School would have the experience in a hands-on way many of the concepts” discussed in class.
“It means so much to me. I will remember this for a long time to come,” he said.