A World of Experiential Learning Opportunities Through Nature
Opened in August 2018, the Lower School Outdoor Classroom is an expansive learning space for students to engage, explore and play in a well-equipped outdoor environment with endless nature-based provocations. Adjacent to the classrooms for the kindergarten and grade 1 students it serves, the Outdoor Classroom features an edible growing garden, a sand pit, water tables, art stations, small and large building areas, a tricycle loop, reading nooks, an outdoor performance stage, mature trees, an enchanted fairy garden and large playground equipment—swings, tires, and a rope climber. Students are able to explore the Outdoor Classroom during unstructured time throughout the day, and teachers utilize the space as a living laboratory for class time.
The Outdoor Classroom nurtures learning in our youngest Lower School students in unique ways. St. Margaret’s has a K-1 Outdoor Classroom teacher who conducts science lessons in the space, in addition to collaborating with St. Margaret’s Lower School visual arts teacher and homeroom teachers to design curriculum and provocations tailored for this unique outdoor setting.
Ample unstructured time in outside environments throughout the student’s day also nurtures kinesthetic, creativity, problem solving, interpersonal and critical thinking skills. The Outdoor Classroom fosters gross and fine motor development, and engages multiple senses in the learning process at once, which increases permanence. Time spent in nature, itself, is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, improve observation and causation skills and cognitive focus.
The Outdoor Classroom was designed by St. Margaret’s faculty in partnership with the Outdoor Classroom Project, the leader in outdoor education research and innovation for young children, that also supported St. Margaret’s development of the renowned Early Childhood School Outdoor Classroom. The creators envisioned a vibrant, welcoming, thoughtful environment that supports student choice through high-quality, experiential spaces, numerous and varied activities to best optimize the meaningful benefits and facilitate the kind of learning and healthy development in young children that only takes place outdoors. Through the partnership with the Outdoor Classroom Project, St. Margaret’s engages outdoor education experts in ongoing faculty professional development.