Our students are building an outdoor classroom. The process began in the fall of 2015 and they continue to work on it almost weekly. They did research on compost bins, types of vegetables to plant and construction techniques. They measured the area and each child made a proposal for the design of the space. Next, the building began. The students built the raised garden beds, a worm (compost) bin, a digging pit and a work bench. Currently they use their outdoor classroom to learn about science, work on projects (building bird houses, a cob sculpture and a solar cooker), and to eat lunch on nice days.
The concept of the Outdoor Classroom is built upon the premise that children need a broad variety of learning experiences and opportunities to grow in areas such as gross and fine motor development, social-emotional development, language development, and creative expression. Mastery of these skills is critical for healthy development and requires an educational format that is different from a traditional classroom.
Many lessons can be learned in the garden and the outdoor classroom. It is an obvious place to learn about science, nature and healthy eating habits. It is also a place where students learn about math, communication skills, art, problem solving skills, leadership and independence. Yes, many of these concepts can also be taught inside. However, there is a difference in concepts being taught and concepts being truly learned. Kids love being outside; that’s where they are happiest. Students learn best when all of their senses are engaged. This type of hands-on experiential education has proven to be very effective.
In addition to the outdoor classroom that is part of the school, the students take weekly hikes. These trips into the woods provide a time for the children to learn about science as well as to gain confidence and independence. These hikes provide a fun way for the students to get more physical activity and to explore the world around them.