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How to Build an Outdoor Classroom

Video Transcription

Erase your boards, erase your boards. Your eyes are looking at me! Y’all are getting really good at writing your letters.

There are incredible academic benefits to using outdoor spaces. An outdoor learning lab is an extension of school. So, it is a classroom full of learning features that are hands-on, so teachers can bring to life math and science and literacy.

There’s also health benefits. Just being in an outdoor setting really does help student wellness.

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We have seen an increased interest in outdoor learning as a strategy for social distancing. There is less transmission of COVID, and so the outdoors can become part of a reopening strategy.

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When schools are considering building an outdoor learning lab, here are six key things that we recommend.

You want to choose a location that is in close proximity to school, and is accessible to all students.

Consider the grading and make sure that there is good drainage.

You also want to make sure that you’re not right next to the playground and you’re free from distraction so students can focus.

All right, guys and girls, we’re going to do a little STEM project. You’re going to invent something to keep these teeny-tiny little seedlings warm.

In choosing a location, it’s very important to consider shade, so teachers and students aren’t in the sun all day. Trees are the most common choice, but you can also look at where natural shade is created from your building.

Why else might that soil be warmer than the air?

The next thing that we recommend is a whiteboard and you can do this for a couple of hundred dollars. We typically install it on cedar posts, and in a permanent way, because that way teachers don’t have to carry anything when they bring their students out.

… experience, right? So, your criteria, keep seedlings warm.

It is so important to provide storage for teachers. You can build a wooden shed, there are also plastic sheds you can purchase. Teachers can store clipboards, pencils, anything that they’re using daily.

All right, my inventors, what are you going to come up with using nothing but the things I brought out here for us to use? There are scissors for you.

Seating is also really important. Our favourite option is using tree stumps. You can paint them, you can put numbers on them, you can spread them out a good six feet. You can also use inexpensive buckets as well as milk crates.

Taking this, and I’m going to stick it in the ground.

And then there are the additional learning features that you can add on that will take you deeper into the curriculum. Raised beds and vegetable beds are science in action. They’re also a great place for real world math and they introduce kids to growing fresh vegetables.

I made a solar panel like object that will reflect heat and light onto the plant and the soil to give it…

Additional features would be rain barrels and compost bins, and then creating a very simple and low-cost weather station on a cedar post. You can install rain gauges, thermometers, barometers and a weather vane. These are wonderful learning tools for STEM.

What have you done here? Talk to me about this Kaden. So, I have my black paper under there.

I love getting to see them have that excitement and joy for what they’re learning. They have that sense of discovery when they’re out here. What could have been a very abstract concept is now something very, very real to them.

So, as you’re creating a vision for your outdoor learning lab, have your teachers prioritize the things that they want to use the outdoors to teach.

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At a time when we’re seeing significant learning loss, taking your students outdoors can help mitigate against some of the learning loss. So, when you combine academic and health benefits, there’s a strong case there for taking kids outdoors.