An Outdoor Education

February 02, 2011 | 12:02 pm

I am collaborating with teachers and staff at our elementary school in designing an outdoor classroom.  It has turned into a labor of love my daughter and me. She is excited about having gardens, compost piles and rain barrels at her school. I think I will recruit her to train the teachers that swear they kill every plant they touch.

Engaging our children in nature and allowing them to work with their hands in a natural environment will provide new experiences and new opportunities to teach and learn far beyond a traditional classroom setting. As this country moves further away food production, I believe teaching them the value of soil and how to grow food can be one of the greatest life lessons we could provide our students.  Research validates our desire to bring students’ education outside and into real life application of biology, science, botany and math.

  • Results from a 1998 Bexar County Texas Master Gardener classroom research project reports that youth gardening projects increased self-esteem, helped develop a sense of ownership and responsibility, fostered relationships with family members and increase parental involvement at school.
  • Research from Texas A&M University reports fascinating facts that support our desire to build the outdoor classroom 1. Students in the experimental group scored significantly higher on the science achievement test compared to the students in the control group. 2. Students in the experimental group did significantly increase their overall life skills scores.
  • A different Texas A&M University study showed that fifth, sixth, and seventh grade students developed better interpersonal relationship skills after participating in a garden program.

In addition, our focus goes into the character of our students. An outdoor classroom will give new opportunities to practice team work, delayed gratification, respect, community, cooperation, and leadership.

This is a large project for any school, parent group and community; however, I am encouraged by everyone’s enthusiasm and look forward to seeing the fruits of this labor of love.