The Outdoor Classroom: Our Outdoor classroom is so much more than a playground. It is truly an outdoor learning environment. The central point is a Tree house, created from repurposed wood via volunteer hours by our school community. Below the Tree house is our "Mudkitchen", a popular area to mix dirt, water, and natural objects. Next to the Mudkitchen is a “Digzone” ringed with stumps for climbing. A “Nature Art” area features a nature loom, a sensory table filled with nature objects and slate tiles on a fence to draw on. Next door is a “Musicscape”, featuring a xylophone, a stage, and a percussion wall. Two canoes grace the grounds for dramatic play. A water station with a pump allows sensory play with water. Our constantly-evolving space is a “Small Worlds” zone for creative play with small forest animals and fairies. Within our schoolyard fence we built a Little Library so that families can share free books. Beyond the fence, there are trails, picnic tables, a bug hotel, an area for story circle in the woods, and outdoor seating for performances. In spring 2015, we partnered with Ranger Chris from Fort Smallwood Park to label the trees along our nature trail. The nature trails encourage exploration and offer many new opportunities for teachable moments.
We explain to our families that there is value to exploring in nature, no matter the weather. We teach the benefits of our Outdoor Classroom to our students and their families.
Schoolyard Gardens: In 2009-2010 we transformed our schoolyard from a sandy, eroded yard into wildlife habitat with erosion control and water conservation. Our first impact is in providing the students with a natural area to interact with in their curriculum, fostering a love of nature and understanding of plants and growth. Our second impact is in the ecological quality of the plants that we chose, using native species that provide wildlife habitat and include groundcover for erosion control and perennial plants for sustainability. Our third impact is in the water absorption and filtration provided by our gardens and our four rain barrels. These impacts will benefit people, the local ecosystem, and the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed. Our schoolyard is a certified Bay-Wise Habitat. We continue to add to our gardens with fall and spring bulb plantings and planting against attrition. Our schoolyard is partial to full shade over its entirety so we are limited as to what we can plant. Our students grow herbs and native flower seeds in the classroom for transport at home.
Animal Habitats: We continue to attempt improvements to our gardens that provide habitat benefits to wildlife, such as rocks for toads and a bug hotel. Some of our favorites include hummingbird feeders, a bat house, a bird bath, and bird houses. We added Sensory aspects to our garden to encourage the students to interact with their gardens.