Goals and Desired Outcomes
For this project, I will be developing a prototype design of an outdoor classroom which could be used by elementary and middle school grades 4 – 8 for the purposes of lecture, discussion, individual and group work, as well as nature discovery. This outdoor classroom design will be developed for Midwest school districts and will act as a ‘prototype' from which schools can develop their own outdoor classroom. I will also review the research literature describing existing uses of outdoor classrooms, along with their effectiveness for teaching and learning, and positive outcomes associated with their use. There are many different reasons why an outdoor classroom should be used daily in schools and I hope to describe these reasons with convincing explanation and clarity. Also, local outdoor classroom and education centers will be documented, presented, and evaluated with this project, with pictures, descriptions, and locations. Following the completion of this paper, a website will be developed based upon the information gathered. This website is found at: http://www.ClassroomInNature.weebly.com. The purpose of the website it to provide a central location that school teachers, administrators, parents, and community members can use to find information about the value of outdoor classrooms and provide information regarding such classrooms in their community.
One desired outcome of this project will be to increase students and teachers’ contact with nature by promoting their use of outdoor classrooms. This means that students and teachers will be able to escape the four walls of the indoor classroom to be immersed in a natural outdoor setting. Even though this outdoor classroom environment will be designed for educational purposes and have a somewhat manicured natural space, my hope is that it will give the experience of being in a natural setting.
Humans seem to have a fundamental need to affiliate with natural elements, which could be satisfied with use of an outdoor classroom for all members of the school community and the greater community in general. Using an outdoor classroom is an amazing way to foster recovery from mental fatigue not only for students, but for faculty and staff as well. Further, there is evidence, as suggested by Kahn, of the “existence of biophilia, a fundamental, genetically based human need and propensity to affiliate with other living organisms” (1997, p. 1). Another desired outcome will be that teachers and staff may use this space to get away to a natural environment setting either during a free period and/or lunch, and thus recover from the stresses of a school or workplace. “Mental fatigue is a fact of life in a world overflowing with information," and "finding ways to recover is greatly helped by the availability of restorative settings and experiences" (Kaplan, Kaplan, and Ryan 1998, p. 22).