The Outdoor Classroom

Dora Ann Hatch  |  9/21/2016 6:41:10 PM

Take away the electronics and take your child to an outdoor classroom. The classroom can be the park, your backyard or on a nearby farm that offers agritourism activities.

So what is an outdoor classroom? The outdoor classroom is a place where students of all ages explore and play in an uncontrolled outdoor environment. The classroom does not have walls, air-conditioning or lighting and depends on Mother Nature for activities.

How do you create an outdoor classroom? First, get access to an outdoor location like a park, a backyard, a playground or a nearby farm. The classroom should have the basics: trees, grass, water, plants, open spaces and a shelter from the sun.

The outdoor classroom is a great idea for agritourism operators to incorporate into their existing enterprise. Agritourism operators can use outdoor lessons to explain their connection to their farming operation. The LSU AgCenter has online materials available to help develop your lesson plans on topics such as: horticulture, forestry, school gardening/nutrition, wildlife, etc. Any of the ideas below could be used at an agritourism venue or your own backyard to share nature with your children.

  • Explore the importance of trees. They enhance our environment aesthetically, produce oxygen, provide habitat for wildlife and provide materials for our homes and classrooms. The LSU AgCenter has a lesson plan entitled, “ Tree Vests,” available online at www.lsuagcenter.com.
  • Teach soil preparation, plant selection and harvesting of vegetables. Take the shovel and begin digging a garden plot. What does dirt smell like? How does it feel? Who lives in dirt? How much sun do I need for my plants to grow? What plants will grow best? How do I pick? What do I do with all these veggies once I harvest?
  • Inform children about good and bad insects. Share information on why insects are needed in the environment. Make a bug box, catch a lightning bug or just watch a butterfly move from plant to plant. Visit your 4-H office to learn about projects involving insects.
  • Create an animal track plot to learn about the animals that enter your backyard every day. Clear land and leave an area of soil free of grass and debris. Check each day for tracks. Identify the tracks and then rake the area clean again and see if you have the same visitor overnight. Keep a log and discover who is in your backyard. A good resource for lessons is Project WILD.
  • Share the importance of water in the environment. Explain how we need to protect our streams and limit our use of water for generations to come. Study the flow of water and get scientific with some experiments. A good resource for lessons is Project WET.

More ideas on how to set up an outdoor classroom are available online in a publication entitled, “Developing an Outdoor Classroom,” authored by the University of Tennessee. The LSU AgCenter also has a master gardener and master naturalist program with lots of volunteers who can serve as resources.

To learn more about how you can include an outdoor classroom in your agritourism venue and have the protection of the agritourim limited liability law contact: Dora Ann Hatch at (318) 927-9654 x 229 or e-mail her at: dhatch@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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