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Tired of hauling materials into the schoolyard for outdoor science activities? Why not dig up what you need to create a permanent, central, outdoor space that lends itself to integrated learning? This article describes the three main components that are necessary to launch a successful outdoor classroom project—a good plan, student enthusiasm, and financial support. An outdoor classroom will plant the seeds of learning and foster quality environmental education at your school.
A selection from Science Scope—May 2000
I absolutely love the idea of the outdoor classroom; it is an excellent way to integrate a naturalistic learning style into our curriculum. Like the article said, careful planning and organization are essential, because without these elements it could actually be a deterrent to our students' learning. I worked for a language learning program that runs during the summers. As a staff, we were excited to set up "outdoor learning centers" (we placed several shaded tents, chairs, and tables next to the beautiful lake outside) and over the course of the program, we noticed that the students actually retained more information than previous groups who have gone through this program. They all stated that they could focus better outside, and they enjoyed being present in the nature. I think a child's environment plays a giant role in how he or she learns. Being present in nature is an amazing way for many students to relax and focus well on their school work.
This article interested me from the beginning. It discusses how teachers bring materials needed for an outdoor science lesson from inside the school building. Teachers have to remember to have all materials in hand in order for students to be able to do the outside lesson. It would be nice for teachers to already have the science materials outside ready for students to use. Outdoor classrooms allow for teachers to teach their science lessons with nature. Having class outdoors allows students to get hands-on experience with learning about topics surrounding nature such as botany and geology. The author notes that in order to have a productive outdoor classroom at your school is to have a plan in mind, interested students, and funding.
The author describes ways he connected his students to the community as they developed an outdoor classroom based on student input. He describes lessons he uses with the garden and sources of funding for those interested in doing something similar. I found this very informative and helpful. I liked the way he described how he started small and allowed things to develop as they would and stayed in contact with the community.
Tina Harris (Bloomington, IN)
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