5 Easy Tips to Outdoor Classroom Design
What if you were given 20 new laptops for your classroom, would you know what to do with them? Would you know how to integrate these gifted laptops into your curriculum? Would you know the best programs to use or the best practices?
What if you were given a beautiful, fenced-in outdoor area right outside your classroom? Would you know how to create an Outdoor Classroom? Would you know the best practices to make a well designed outdoor space that has an impact on child development?
“A degraded habitat will produce degraded humans. If there is to be any true progress, the entire life community must progress.” Thomas Berry
In understanding that Outdoor Classrooms unleash discovery, learning, and adventure for all ages, it is important to know that Outdoor Classrooms come in all shapes and sizes. Not all of us will be gifted with beautiful outdoor spaces right outside our classroom; however, no matter what your outdoor space and what your budget has to offer, I have come to learn:
It’s more important that teachers know how to teach outdoors using the natural environment than to have a fully equipped classroom that teachers may not know how to use.
I have also learned that you don’t have to wait until the next long range planning meeting to determine the budget and design plan to take your next steps. I believe transforming outdoor learning spaces can be done on a shoestring budget. I also believe that it should be done organically with the children. Therefore, creating beautifully imperfect, one of a kind Outdoor Classrooms.
Although all our outdoor spaces are all different, the outdoor design elements that go into these spaces are the same.
What if you had some simple ideas that you could implement into your new and beautiful outdoor space right away? Would you use them? Share them with your fellow teachers? Did you know that small changes in outdoor spaces can have an impact on child development?
Let’s get started!
MAKE SIGNS: Signs transform outdoor spaces instantly. It is common practice to label things in our indoor classrooms. Do the same for your Outdoor Classroom. Label and add sign to plants, learning stations, and gardens. Invite the children to help you. Make a class Literacy project around this task. You will be amazed! Read More
DECIDE YOUR GARDEN TYPE: What type of Garden you would like? This decision will help you with what type of plants you add to your Outdoor Classroom. For example: If you are creating a Garden that Feeds, then you will plant easy to grow food. If you are creating a Garden that Attracts Wildlife, then you might plant a butterfly bush. Read more about Types of Gardens.
CREATE PATHS: Children are curious creatures and the element of a garden path speaks to this. Adding paths to your outdoor classroom defines your outdoor spaces. You may have a variety of outdoor learning spaces and paths that connect each of them. You may have a path that leads to a secret hide-a-way. The possibilities are endless.
DETERMINE YOUR GATHERING PLACE: Children love rituals. An Outdoor Gathering Place offers a bit of structure to your outdoor learning activities. It is a place to read a book or discuss and reflect. The Gathering Place should be the same place each time. It can be under a tree or a circle of stumps in your outdoor space.
ADD OUTDOOR LEARNING STATIONS: Once you determine your Garden-Type, you will gain more clarity on what type of learning station you include in your Outdoor Classroom. For example: Do you want a Garden Rooted in Curriculum? Then add a Mud Kitchen and witness Math Outdoors at play.
Now I want to hear from you. What design tips did you like the most? How did they work in your Outdoor Classroom? Want to learn more about how to design your Outdoor Classroom on a shoestring budget? Check out my e-Course called Teaching in the Dirt: Designing Outdoor Classrooms.
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