COUNCIL of OUTDOOR LEARNING CoOL Toolkit: PLAN - Assets and Needs
What is CoOL?
The Council of Outdoor Learning (CoOL) is an initiative of the Environmental Education Alliance (EEA) that focuses on the design, development, use, and sustainability of outdoor learning environments on school campuses. CoOL provides tips and techniques for those who want to create outdoor classrooms or learning stations, hosts an annual symposium to share resources and strategies for teaching outdoors, curates a collection of outdoor learning activities that are integrated with state standards, and provides professional learning workshops, resources and webinars for teachers and non-formal educators
How can you know what you need, before you know what you've got? Schoolyard audits are one way to to take note of physical assets and identify missing elements for an outdoor learning program on campus. Here are several types of audits. Choose one or all of them to complete.
The EcoSchools Schoolyard Habitats Audit is designed as a tool to help students and teachers determine whether there are areas on campus that could support native wildlife. The process involves identifying essential components of a healthy habitat and then surveying the schoolyard to search for them. If there are some areas with potential but missing components, it is suggested that these gaps might generate ideas for student projects.
What's Good in My Hood is an asset-based neighborhood audit for urban areas. Author Akiima Price intended for students to conduct the audit and to learn about their community and how it connects with nature, in the process. For more about Akiima Price and the Urban Environmental Collective, click here.
USF&W Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide
Environmental Pathway Audits
National Wildlife Federation offers a number of audit pathways that student teams can use to discover how sustainable their school is in terms of consumption, waste, energy use, wildlife habitat, transportation, watersheds, food and many other categories. Click here to explore all the ways students can assess the environmental health of the school building and grounds.
Make a Master Plan
Drawing on survey results; the map of campus assets and needs; any environmental audits that students have conducted; as well as design constraints such as planned location of future buildings or modular classrooms; location of underground utilities; and safety hazards, create a master plan that focuses on campus assets and prioritizes highly-needed improvements. Divide the plan into bite-sized chunks so that volunteers, civic groups, and the school community has a blueprint for what is needed.