Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Outdoor Education without Leaving Campus

Rebecca King
Christiansburg Elementary
Christiansburg, Virginia

Although not impossible, it can be tough to get students off of school grounds – especially at the beginning of the year, when everyone is just settling in, and at the end of the year, when state testing takes over the calendar. 

The problem is, early fall and late spring are the best times to get outdoors with your students! At least here in southwest Virginia, you can never quite count on the weather cooperating between October and April. 

One way I have found to get students outdoors and engaging with nature during good weather is through a school garden. The downside is that I would much rather be hiking than weeding, but the upside is you don’t have to go through the hoops of organizing a field trip.

At Christiansburg Elementary, inspired by students who craved hands-on learning experiences, our staff set the dual goals of creating a beautiful, productive garden space and furthering student engagement.

Students worked to pick out supplies, adding up costs and debating the merits of one type of seed over another. Classes partnered with the Virginia Tech Sustainable Food Corps to give the garden a true makeover by clearing overgrowth, building new raised beds, and planting fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

The effort paid off. Little by little, the garden became a beautiful place to work and learn. Staff began incorporating the garden into more and more learning experiences in reading, math, science, and social studies. Students who struggled to find their niche in the regular classroom setting gained valuable leadership skills through garden caretaking. We were able to harvest enough food to send home with students for whom hunger is a daily experience.

I encourage all TTEC educators to give a school garden a try – it is outdoor education without the hassle of leaving school!

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