The Vegetable Project, which has been digging in the dirt at Myers Middle School since 2009, proposes developing space around its gardens to create an outdoor classroom for the school. The idea is that an outdoor classroom would serve as a living science laboratory, a place where English classes might be encouraged to write and art students might be given a chance to observe. In each case, its use would be supported by research pointing to a wide range of healthy outcomes associated with time spent outdoors, in fresh air and amid nature.
The beautiful rendering here, which was created by Albany landscape designer Jason Schultz, is not a completed plan. Rather, think of it as a depiction of ideas that could transform the school’s learning environment and create bold new teaching and learning opportunities. We envision amenities such as a shaded seating area, a greenhouse, handicapped accessibility, vegetable garden beds, fruit trees, food preparation facilities, native plants and wildlife habitat.
So what exactly is an outdoor classroom? The term’s definition really is in the eye of the beholder. The breadth of great possibilities, however, is captured in an array of web sites and publications with ideas and advice for folks like us that is drawn from the experience of earlier developers and educators. Please take a look.
Among the many steps ahead are exploring myriad greenhouse design options, firming up cost estimates costs, identifying potential funding and telling our story to an ever-wider swath of the community. Sustaining visibility, including endlessly seeking new audiences, is so critical to building resources to ensure that once the classroom is built it will be used.