As you approach our Outdoor Classroom, you are greeted by an archway of sweet-smelling Star Jasmine plants growing over the entrance. Once inside you will first notice our lush herb garden with mint, basil, oregano, and thyme. The students love to pick the herbs and experiment with the various tastes, smells, textures as they discuss some of their favorite meals that use the same herbs.
Next, we have our raised planters with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. While studying the life cycle of plants, the students each planted their own seed in a small pot to watch it grow from a seed to a seedling, then sprout, and eventually a plant. After many weeks of tending to their seeds, several of the small plants were transplanted to the permanent garden area so we could watch them continue to grow and blossom in the coming months. We have brussel sprouts, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, pumpkins, lima beans, sunflowers, sweetpeas, and peonies. The students each took home one of the pots with a plant in it.
Our gathering area is where the students love spending time listening to stories, singing songs, acting out charades with their classmates, and working on school lessons in the serene environment of the outdoor classroom. The music wall is a favorite for creative expression as the students bang on pots, pans, muffin tins, wind chimes, and other recycled items. Our water play area is a hit and the imagination of the students is limitless as they explore our pirate ship and colorful teepee in the climbing area. Our little engineers have a blast exploring the building area as they create 3D structures with a plastic house they can build and take apart on their own, a magnetic wall and tiles.
We constantly have a variety of art displayed in our art area, both on our clear plexiglass wall, as well as the picket fence. One of the favorite parts of the outdoor classroom is exploring the messy materials section as the students explore pinecones, rocks, shells, and other treasures they find on nature scavenger hunts. We also added a bird feeder to the outdoor classroom and the students enjoy feeding the birds each week and watching them visit throughout the day. Near the bird feeder is the digging area where students use the sit-on diggers to explore the earth and work on their gross motor skills to operate the machines. In the Zen garden the students love to have some quiet time as they create patterns in the sand with their hand rakes.
Each class visits the outdoor classroom several times a week to tend to the garden and engage in the various areas it has to offer. They do whole group instruction at times, but more often they break up into small groups to engage in multiple pre-planned activities and rotations so that every child is able to find something in nature that speaks to them and to connect with.