Explain that again: What is an outdoor classroom?

UTennessee coverThe Vegetable Project proposes to build an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School. But what exactly is that?

We are thinking of an outdoor space that offers teaching and learning opportunities that may not work quite as well indoors, taking advantage especially of stimulation of all the senses, the contribution that contact with nature makes to wellbeing and the real-world experiences that can make learning feel relevant. Perhaps, however, that still does not explain what exactly an outdoor classroom is.

It is worth knowing then that there really is no single definition. The term is used differently by different people, different developers and different schools. A look, however, at how others use the term reveals some pretty exciting possibilities.

For example, here is a great list of features that an outdoor classroom might include from a University of Tennessee Extension publication, Developing an Outdoor Classroom to Provide Education Naturally.

  • Agricultural crops, amphitheater, animal tracks plots, arboretum and archaeological area.
  • Berry-producing shrubs; bird blind; bird feeder and baths, bulbs, corms and tubers and butterfly garden.
  • Compost pile and creek or stream.
  • Elevated walkway or bridge, erosion control demonstration area and
  • existing timber stand.
  • Garden plot, geological site or rock pile and groundwater monitoring hole.
  • Historical area and horticultural demonstration area.
  • Insect traps and marsh or wetland.
  • Native grasses and wildflowers and nesting/roosting boxes.
  • Orchard/vineyard and outdoor seating area.
  • Permanent water source, pioneer garden and pond.
  • Shelter, soil profile area, storage buildings and sundial.
  • Time capsule, trails and trees and woodlands.
  • Wildlife brush piles and wildlife food plots.

Please take a few minutes, if you can, to look at the publication.

—Bill Stoneman

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