Garden of the Month: July 2016
Welcome to Outdoor Classrooms Garden of the Month. From backyards to schoolyards, we want to find the Outdoor Classrooms, Children’s Gardens & Community Programs that are cultivating wonder, curiosity and playful learning. Our July Spotlight Garden is The Interactive Outdoor Classroom and Trail (IOCaT) at the Lehman Intermediate School in East Stroudsburg, PA. I would like to welcome and introduce, 8th grade English teacher & English Dept. Chairperson, Cynthia Pellington. She is here today to share the Interactive Outdoor Classroom and Trail story.
Outdoor Classroom and Trail
Submitted by Cynthia Pellington, M.Ed.
The Interactive Outdoor Classroom and Trail, affectionately called the IOCaT, is located on the East Stroudsburg Area School District North Campus, in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Built in 2013, The IOCaT started out as a dream of retired Science Chairperson Linda Stein – McKenna. She wanted to create a nature trail behind Lehman Intermediate School. She tried for many years. She found the perfect place! She was contagious! We attended a conference at Penn State Hazelton Campus together, and it excited us about the prospect of an outdoor learning experience for our students; we broadened our goal and decided to develop our project into an outdoor classroom with a nature trail.
The Beginning- We started out with a raw piece of nature …..many people could not envision our concept. Don’t let this discourage you! Follow your dream! It has taken years, but we have since transformed our project into an outdoor classroom. I am excited to report we received the 2016 Excellence in Education Award and became National Wildlife Federation “Wildlife Habitat.”
Visitors enter our classroom through an archway, located alongside a beautiful pavilion and flagpole area surrounded by many wildflowers and benches. The pavilion can be used to eat lunches, play games, and perform music, complete experiments, give lessons, or hold Community days.
While hiking the trail, students can view birdhouses placed in the trees, as well as read trail guides describing the plant and animal life. They can also use technology to read over 100 QR code signs placed along the trail that provide information on animals, birds, plants, and reptiles. Our wood shop students built the wooden posts for these signs, and our E-team, computer students, created the QR codes.
Trail-goers can also stop to sit quietly on log benches placed along the trail in our “Quiet Stop” to journal, observe or draw nature, or they can play games, such as, large checker boards, tic-tac- toe boards, or hopscotch created by my granddaughter Colleen & I that will be installed this summer.
One of the highlights of the outdoor classroom, found along the trail, is a learning center where students can stop to explore and uncover fossils in our Fossil Dig. Inside this digging area Students learn about archaeological digging, tools and techniques to unearth fossils of all sizes. The large ones are permanently secured in the pit, while other small ones are loose and can be taken home as treasures to remember the experience.
Other classes choose to use the amphitheater at the end of the trail to play handmade musical instruments, hold sing-a- longs, give lectures or perform plays. musical section of the “Kindergarten” at the Plateau Discovery Gardens in Crossville, Tennessee. I look forward to hearing music (Musical Instrument Pictures are from Plateau Discovery Gardens)
Mrs. McKenna has retired from teaching and the project. I will always value her friendship and I am thankful for her infectious attitude into this wonderful world of outdoor education. This outdoor classroom is so exciting! It allows us to reinforce, apply and enrich our traditional curriculum. I will to continue to inspire other educators as to the importance of outdoor education, as a result recognizing that children who spend time in well-designed outdoor classrooms, with nurturing adults, develop valuable skills. The multi-sensory learning experience recognizes different learning styles, and lends itself to inter-disciplinary studies.
The list of future learning centers that can be created is endless and could go on forever! The next center I am researching is a team building low challenge course, what do you think? Will the students like it?