Welcome to the Outdoor Learning Guide!

This Guide will provide you with information and resources about:

What is an Outdoor Classroom?
Any outdoor space used for student exploration, inquiry and learning is an outdoor classroom.  Some schools make gardens the focalpoint of their outdoor education programs.  Others focus on recycling and composting.  Wildlife habitats such as woods, ponds, creeks, and clearings are popular settings for nature studies, science investigations, geography projects, measurement activities, and journal writing.  Check out these featured outdoor education programs in Georgia schools for inspiration and ideas.


How to Make Your Own Outdoor Classroom

TAKE STOCK OF EXISTING ASSETS
  • The first step in planning an outdoor education program is to inventory the school grounds and identify interesting features.  Is there a creek or pond, old trees, or open space?
  • Completing a Schoolyard Habitat assessment will give you an idea of how wildlife-friendly your school is, and what you can do to attract native plants and animals. 

ASK THE FACULTY WHAT THEY NEED AND WANT
  • Survey teachers to find out how they perceive outdoor education and what barriers keep them from engaging students in more hands-on learning activities and inquiry investigations. Ask respondents to rank their needs and prioritize a list of prospective projects and activities (including specific outdoor education facilities or amenities, teacher training, lesson plans for particular standards, supplies and materials, etc.).
  • This sample survey may provide ideas for how to make one of your own.  Provide feedback to teachers on survey results.

GET HELP FROM EXPERTS  

MAKE A MASTER PLAN AND A MAP
  • The next step in planning an outdoor education program is to plan projects and activities based on your faculty survey and site inventory results.   Creating a Master Plan, which will guide the program over a period of years, is as simple as listing proposed projects in priority order and finding a location for each.
  • Engage students in mapping activities, which show the location of existing and planned features on campus.

ORGANIZE PROJECTS
  •  Volunteer labor provides a way to stretch limited dollars. Parents, teachers, students, community members, corporations which sponsor community service projects, and Scout troops can make valuable contributions of time.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

SHORT CUT
Excited about outdoor education but haven’t yet started the planning process at your school?  No worries.  You can teach outdoors as soon as today, without any special facilities or equipment.  Just pick a hands-on activity for your class and take your students outside.  


What to Do In the Outdoor Classroom
  • Sample  “Lessons, Activities and Investigations for the Outdoor Classroom” for a quick start.
  • Activities featured at recent Outdoor Classroom Symposia.
  • Create Your Own Field Study Kits to integrate outdoor education with the curriculum. For information on the process one school went through to create a hands-on field study activity for each science standard at each grade level, read this article link: “The Field of Dreams and Other Myths about Outdoor Classrooms,” reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine.  


How to Keep an Outdoor Classroom Going (or Revitalize an Abandoned One)


Tip #1:  Plan Well from the Start
Check out “Planning First to Make Your Outdoor Classroom Last; A Best Management Practices (BMP) Guide for Creating and Sustaining Outdoor Classrooms in Georgia” by Georgia Wildlife Federation

Tip #2:  Keep the Program Fresh and Relevant
Use periodic surveys and site inventories to update the Master Plan for physical facilities; ensure that the educational program is still aligned with state performance standards; and add new activities.

Tip #3:  Don’t Just Build Facilities: Build Capacity
Train teachers in outdoor education and provide workshops on inquiry investigations.  Invest in Volunteers.
Provide training, recognition, support and food.

Tip #4:  Document Everything
Provide a s mooth transition for future teachers and volunteers by keeping records of projects, plans, funding, and events.  Create ”how to” manuals and post them online.  Write a newsletter to teachers and archive them.  Bind annual reports and grant progress reports and save them forever.  Check out this link to Frey Elementary’s outdoor classroom maintenance guidelines from the “Adopt a Spot Handbook.”  Note how thoroughly Worth Primary School has documented their work days and construction projects at this web site.

Tip #5:  Read “Sustaining Outdoor Classrooms” by Amanda Kail
Article reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine.  

 
Connecting with Kindred Spirits

Even if you are the only person in your entire school with an interest in outdoor education, there are plenty of folks  across the state who are in the same boat and would enjoy sharing information with you. Here are a few tips for finding kindred spirits and staying in touch.

Tip #1: Join the Environmental Education Alliance (EEA), the premier environmental education organization in Georgia.   Attend the EEA conference each spring.  

Tip #2: Attend the Georgia Outdoor Classroom Symposium each fall, to meet kindred spirits and glean new ideas and inspiration.  
 
Tip #3: Missed a few Symposia recently?  No problem!  Catch up with these hand-outs and Proceedings from the last few years.

Tip #4: Feeling isolated between Symposia?  Sign up for these newsletters, to stay current in the field of environmental education all year long:

EEinGeorgia
KidsGardening
National Wildlife Federation

Tip #5:  Search the EEinGeorgia database to find environmental education providers which may be closer than you think. Or environmental organizations which may be just around the corner.


Outdoor Classrooms and The Big Picture

Start school-wide projects to draw more teachers and students into outdoor education.  Affiliate your school with organizations that set standards for and recognize exemplary outdoor education programs.  The following are links to some of these organizations:

Resources for Your Outdoor Classroom
Vendors and Costs for Example Outdoor Classrooms (compiled by Frey Elementary)
Funding and Freebies for Outdoor Classrooms
Integrating Technology with Outdoor Education
Tips and Techniques for Teaching Outdoors
Lessons, Activities and Investigations for the Outdoor Classroom