University of California-Davis Lab School

The ECL initiated two major projects pertaining to the outdoor classroom during the 2023-2024 academic year.

The first was a program-wide, self-study of decolonizing place in early education and going beyond land-use acknowledgments to honor the historical and current knowledge and experiences of the Patwin People. Through assigned readings, guest lectures, and participation in regional meetings, including the Tribal Child Care Association of California annual conference; the ECL staff utilized the outdoor classroom with a deeper respect for the natural world–thinking of outdoor spaces less as a resource for exploitive exploration and consumption, but instead as a lesson for respecting and responding to nature as an equal and interdependent entity. We intend to continue this study to further our advocacy and allyship with Indigenous folks on campus and in the region. Future plans include the development of monuments drawing attention to the history of the land and highlighting shared values of caring for and supporting children and families.

The second project was the addition of a new “learning area” in the outdoor classroom–a co-constructed, with the engagement of children and teaching staff, “Fairy Village”. The goal of this learning area was to create a zone for careful construction, close observation, and respectful use of shared space. Based in fantastical imagination and magical discovery, the children worked individually, in pairs, or small-groups to develop small habitats for “fairies” and our local fauna. Children were coached to enter the space with consideration for existing flora and previously created structures. Upon completion of projects, children were invited to maintain their space or return items to the shared collection of loose parts. This space proved popular and ignited opportunities for social problem-solving.

We want to thank and acknowledge recent donations to our site to help fund the maintenance and renovation of our outdoor classroom. We are especially grateful to Karen and Jim Cauble. Their continued support of our mission and vision for quality outdoor education is deeply appreciated. We look forward to using their generous donation toward the refresh of our Infant and Toddler outdoor classrooms. Thank you again, Jim and Karen!