Land Trust of Bucks County
Land Trust of Bucks County
Bucks County Land Trust

Outdoor Classrooms

To preserve our natural heritage, restore environmental integrity and protect the landscape, we must ensure that subsequent generations share our commitment to land preservation and stewardship.

To promote relationship with the landscape, the Land Trust of Bucks County supports the development and use of outdoor classrooms throughout Bucks County. An outdoor classroom, or green schoolyard, is a natural or designed landscape directly outside the school buildings that serves as a venue for teaching formal standard-based and informal education across the curriculum.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Sherman Elementary School Modernization and Green Schoolyard San Francisco, CA 450 architects, inc. four-fifty clementina san francisco california 94103 415.546.0450 ©2000-2013

Closing the Achievement Gap, Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning, 2002, by Lieberman and Hoody, quantifies the impacts of outdoor classrooms on academic achievement.

Studying children in 40 schools in 12 states, research confirmed academic performance improved across the curriculum, critical thinking skills improved, students became aware of diverse viewpoints, discipline problems diminished and problem-solving proficiency improved through enhanced application of systems thinking.

Students’ understanding of ecological concepts became more comprehensive, they formed connections between personal health and ecological integrity and became more aware of their role and responsibilities as global ecological citizens.

More subjective observations of outdoor classroom impacts were increased enthusiasm for learning and teaching, improved health from edible gardens, increased attendance and improved school relationships.

Outdoor classrooms enhance academic performance and ecological literacy and are being implemented in schools throughout the U.S. and abroad. The Green Schools National Network and Children & Nature Network are sources of information on this innovative approach to living and learning on a finite planet.

LTBC is committed to supporting ecological literacy throughout Bucks County. Our goal is for every child everywhere in Bucks County to have the opportunity to experience nature every day. Outdoor Classrooms are one venue for that opportunity.

The Project

The first LTBC-supported Outdoor Classroom project was initiated at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit School #22, Samuel Everitt School in Levittown. All classrooms at the Samuel Everitt school are Alternative Classrooms serving populations for emotional support, autistic support and multiple disabilities.

The Samuel Everitt school population is kindergarten through age 21 and serves students from Centennial, Neshaminy, Bristol Township, Bristol Borough and Bensalem School Districts.

This project was divided into three phases and supported and planned by a team that included the school principal, students, educators, administrators, school social worker, facilities staff, landscape architect and horticulture students, coordinator/fundraiser and LTBC staff.

Phase 1 - Flagpole Garden

The Flagpole Garden is comprised of native plants and demonstrates a landscape for biodiversity.

As an outdoor classroom, teachers are involved in the planning and use of the Flagpole Garden along with the designers and consultants for the project. Students involved in the use of the Phase 1 Garden are from classes for multiple disabilities, transitions for job preparedness and emotional support.

This outdoor classroom will serve teachers who are developing educational programming in math, science, social skills, literacy and earth science. The academic programs designed for this garden are intended to build and grow the school community through multiple class participation and collaboration.

Phase 2

A larger outdoor classroom is planned for construction in a fenced space between the school and the forest, adjacent to the administration office. The outdoor classroom is designed to accommodate many uses and increase the number of participating classrooms.

Phase 3

An edible garden will be constructed with raised beds directly outside the rear door of the school in an abandoned swing set bed. A large swing set frame will serve as a trellis. This garden will supply food for the students and offer ample experience tending soil, identifying plants and growing, harvesting and preparing fresh foods. The edible garden will be another team and community-building garden engaging multiple classrooms in collaboration.

Samuel Everitt is an ESY (extended school year) school, so there will be plenty of hands to work in the edible garden during the growing season.