Conestoga Elementary

Our Outdoor Classroom celebrated its 9th birthday this year! We were the 200th Certified Nature Explore Classroom and we take great pride in it!

Our elementary school is situated in a town of fewer than 500 people, and our outdoor classroom’s “fences” are cornfields. Every day, before school, during recess, and after school, students utilize our space, especially during the pandemic.

The lessons we’ve learned that may help others include being flexible with the vision for your classroom. We initially started with many beautiful plants, and soon realized that this meant maintenance. Although we maintain our gorgeous butterfly garden, many of our current plantings are simple, hearty and sustainable. We planted over 15 trees that provide beauty, color, shade and additional spaces to explore. Although it took a few years, we now have help from our school maintenance and a committee that oversees the clean-up of the space. It also takes time to get buy in from staff, as they are so busy with the day to day. Once you get a few nature loving leader teachers, that helps spread momentum. Because, guess what? Kids prefer to be outside!

We continue to build relationships with our Junior/Senior High student groups, including our shop class, Future Farmers of America and Cougar Connections groups. Our school doors are open and our students are learning in person! This pandemic has made learning outside even more important! We will continue to strive to keep our classroom OPEN, just like the wild space in which it sits.