I am so happy more schools are developing outdoor classrooms, and I am happy to have designed a few myself. Here is wonderful video associated with the book The Nature Principle by Richard Louv which summarizes why living in nature is so important for everyone, especially children.
An outdoor classroom should merge all the benefits of being outside in nature with unstructured play and learning. Once created, an outdoor classroom will also be successful if :
- actively used for learning and playtime. Exploration, quite time and meditation are other great uses.
- a plan and execution of long-term stewardship (maintenance) exist,
- and the school community including the school district officials, teachers, school’s landscape crews, parents, garden clubs and local residents and businesses, all understand it’s value and will provide support, both short and long term.
Not only will the students benefit greatly from an Outdoor Classroom, but the benefits will weave into the community. This is a win-win for the students (of all ages) and for the community! To understand the importance of this, please refer to this Children and Nature Benefits article.
I’ve included a list of Internet resources below for outdoor classrooms, but there are books covering these topics too. I also have several website links relating to children in nature resources on my “SHARING” page too. Please share with us your outdoor classroom or children in nature resources in the comments sections below. Thank you.
Openlands Resource Page: Openlands works with the Chicago Public Schools, The Chicago Botanic Garden, Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, and The Kitchen for the “The Green Teachers Nework”. They offer some excellent teacher workshops at The Chicago Botanic Garden.
Mighty Acorns Program – incorporates classroom curriculum, hands-on restoration activities and exploration. The Conservation Foundation is one organization that delivers the Mighty Acorn Program to middle schools, but the Mighty Acorn program also works directly with teachers to help them introduce nature and conservation to fourth-sixth graders.
Project Learning Tree: environmental education program for teachers, parents and other educators. They offer online educational materials, grants, local workshops, and newsletter. See “Illinois training” for a list of workshops offered locally.
Scarce Environmental Education – located in Glen Ellyn, this organization offers several environmental programs and workshops for teachers and schools.
Fermilab’s Activities, Resources, and Classes for Students has some resources that are useful to teachers and parents.
Nature Explore is a network of resources, workshops and information for outdoor classrooms throughout the U.S. , including Illinois.
Illinois Department of Nature Resource Kids and Education: This website has educational materials for classroom use, grant list, and other useful information.
Greening Schools: Illinois’ EPA website that is no longer funded but still has some educational materials and resource list.
Green Teachers Network: A not for profit helping educators everywhere promote the environmental. Email newsletters and webinars are free, but there is a subscribtion cost for their quarterly magazine which has a wealth of additional information. They also have book resources. You can downlowd a free sample fo their magazine here: http://greenteacher.com/magazine/gt93/
Cornells’ Bird Sleuth for grades K-12: Creating and learning about birds and habitat for birds in our schools.
Classroom in Nature is resource for developing, using, maintaining and educating others about the benefits of Outdoor Classrooms.
Guidelines and Features for Outdoor Classrooms – this is a good reference for organizing, maintenance, fund-raising, features to put in an outdoor classroom, plus a list of other resources.