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Finding Inspiration for Outdoor Learning

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Originally appears in the Fall 2017 issue

Laura Grimm has two doors in her classroom. Very conveniently, one of them opens directly to the schoolyard!
The other door opens into Laura’s indoor classroom. She is the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) teacher (K-8) for a small, rural Ohio school district. Every day she teaches classes while also serving as a STEAM resource for teachers in her building.
Laura represents all teachers who care deeply about helping children to understand the natural world. Her accomplishments help us to recognize opportunities in our own situations.

Laura’s commitment to outdoor learning began over twenty years ago with one of those classrooms with two doors. She regularly used one door to take her class outside for activities that enriched the curriculum and made abstract concepts more concrete in all areas of the curriculum — not only science. But even if you have only one door in your classroom, you can still replicate many of Laura’s activities and projects.

To use the outdoors as a teaching tool, Laura developed an outdoor classroom on her school site. She tracked down potential donations in the community and enlisted the help of parent and staff volunteers to create a flexible outdoor learning site with diverse plantings, animal feeding stations and a circular outdoor meeting area. She used this outdoor classroom, as well as nearly all areas of the school grounds, as her nature-based audio-visual tools. Several of the activity ideas that she utilized at her school were included in the book Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning, and are shared below.

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Herb Broda is an emeritus professor of education at Ashland University, in Ashland, Ohio, and the author of two books about the schoolyard as a teaching tool. Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning (2007) and Moving the Classroom Outdoors (2011) are both available from Stenhouse Publishers, Portland Maine. Herb’s idea of a perfect day is sharing nature with his family. Learn more about his work at: www.movingtheclassroomoutdoors.com

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