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Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program A Partnership between The Alabama Wildlife Federation and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created.

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Presentation on theme: "Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program A Partnership between The Alabama Wildlife Federation and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created."— Presentation transcript:

1 Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program A Partnership between The Alabama Wildlife Federation and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program in 1999, patterning the program after the National Wildlife Federation’s Schoolyard Habitats ® program. After piloting the program for five years, we certified our first official Outdoor Classroom schools in 2004. Three years later, we extended our partnership to include the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and we began to advertise the program statewide. In 2011, we now have over 250 schools using the program in 55 counties in Alabama.

2 Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program provides technical advice and assistance to educators, administrators, students and community members who wish to create an effective, sustainable outdoor classroom and wildlife habitat on their school grounds. As we piloted the AOC program, we found that schools had difficulties with sustaining their outdoor classroom programs due to faculty turnover, loss of leadership and enthusiasm, and a lack of activities to use in their outdoor classroom sites. To help schools with their outdoor classrooms, we developed a step-by-step Outdoor Classroom Planning Guide along with planning materials to help planning committees. We also host educator and volunteer workshops to help provide activity ideas, learning station ideas, wildlife habitat advice, and technical guidance for schools enrolled in the AOC Program.

3 Why create an Outdoor Classroom at your school?  To extend the classroom beyond the traditional 4 walls, 25 desks, and 25 books… An Outdoor Classroom site can provide valuable first-hand, real world experiences to supplement the familiar text books used in a traditional indoor classroom.

4  To provide hands-on activities while utilizing multiple-disciplinary skills… Studies have shown that students enjoy learning more and retain information longer with hands-on activities, and all subjects can be taught in an outdoor classroom including math, science, history, reading, writing, and the arts. More specifically, an outdoor classroom can facilitate learning by: 1) Helping students utilize complex measuring, graphing, mapping and mathematical skills to solve real-world problems, 2) Refining students abilities in scientific observation, data collection, analysis and forming conclusions, 3) Drawing connections between geography, history, economics and our natural resources, and 4) By providing inspiration for writing and art activities and a peaceful atmosphere for reading.

5  And to help students gain a greater appreciation for Alabama’s rich biodiversity and natural heritage… During a time when children spend more and more time indoors in front of computers, video games, and the television, children have become more removed from the outdoors, physical activity, and nature. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, explains how many children are suffering from nature- deficit disorder, which is leading to higher incidence of attention-deficit disorder and childhood obesity. We hope to combat this trend by taking students outdoors for fun, hands-on activities that triggers their natural curiosity and helps children develop a passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and our natural resources.

6 …in a FUN and EXCITING environment! Students get excited about learning when activities are conducted in an outdoor classroom., and many times they don’t even realize how much they are learning because they are having so much fun! In addition, students who are labeled with ADD, ADHD or emotional problems often become engaged in activities and participate more in an outdoor classroom setting. Nearly all students view the outdoor classroom activities as a reward for their good behavior.

7 What is an Outdoor Classroom? Falkville Elementary in Morgan County Outdoor Classrooms are created in a variety of shapes and sizes (often depending on how much space a school has around their campus), and they incorporate numerous combinations of components and learning stations (depending on what objectives the faculty plans to teach using the outdoor classroom as a tool).

8 Outdoor Classrooms can include amphitheaters or pavilions as one element in a larger plan... Falkville Elementary in Morgan County Fairhope Intermediate in Baldwin County Some people think of an “outdoor classroom“ as an outdoor amphitheater or outdoor pavilion… An outdoor amphitheater can provide a seating area where teachers can discuss topics and activities with their students. A pavilion can provide shade in warmer months, shelter in inclement weather, potential storage space for gardening supplies and activity materials, and an area to conduct outdoor activities that may require tables and benches. However, the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program encompasses much more, including learning stations and wildlife habitats where students can observe nature first-hand, collect date, and gain a greater appreciation for their environment.

9 Outdoor Classrooms can also include… Board Walks and Nature Trails… Sumiton Elementary in Walker County Priceville Elementary in Morgan County Other optional components in an outdoor classroom site are boardwalks and nature trails. These paths can lead students and teachers from one learning station to another without the students accidentally damaging habitats or learning stations.

10 Outdoor Classrooms can include learning stations in forest communities… John E Bryan Elementary in Blount County Bluff Park Elementary in Jefferson County Some schools have natural forest communities within a 3-5 minutes walk of their indoor classrooms, where they can incorporate nature trails with learning stations such as: Plant Identification and Description Signs where students can practice their match skills by measuring the size of the plants to determine if they are “fully grown;” Log Decomposition Station where students can study decomposers such as bugs under a fallen log and moss or lichen on top of the log; and A “History Stump” where students can count the rings of a tree to determine the tree’s age, and they can correlate the various rings to moments in history (such as when 9/11 occurred in 2001).

11 Aquatic studies areas like a pond or bog garden… Allentown Elementary in Mobile County Locust Fork High in Blount County Aquatic studies areas such as fish ponds, frog ponds, and bog gardens are great learning stations to include in an outdoor classroom. In addition to providing a much-needed water source for local wildlife, they also provide a variety of hands-on activities for students of all ages including: Calculating water quality including the water’s pH and dissolved oxygen levels, Computing volume of an irregular shape such as the volume of water in their pond, Distinguishing differences between solids and liquids, and Writing essays and creating drawings inspired by the aquatic habitats.

12 Raised bed gardens such as vegetable & herb gardens or theme gardens… West Morgan Elementary in Morgan County Hemphill Elementary in Jefferson County Gardens are fun, creative projects to include in any Outdoor Classroom. Some schools will allow one teacher or one specific class to “adopt” a raised bed garden for a semester so that they can use themed gardens to teach specific Course of Study objectives. Example themed gardens include: Sensory Garden: with mint &/or rosemary (to smell), lamb’s ear &/or ferns (to touch), rosemary &/or thyme (to taste), bleeding hearts &/or clovers (to see), and windchimes (to hear); George Washington Carver Garden: growing peanuts or sweet potatoes; and Cereal Bowl Garden: corn for corn flakes, oats for oatmeal, rice, wheat, rye, and others.

13 Song Bird and Butterfly Habitats… South Shades Crest Elementary in Jefferson County Endeavor Elementary in Madison County An Outdoor Classroom is also a Schoolyard Habitat – we want to attract wildlife to your outdoor classroom by providing food, water, cover and places to raise young. Song bird sanctuaries and butterfly gardens are easy-to-build learning stations: Song Bird Habitat – A combination of evergreen trees/bushes, berry-producing bushes/trees, bird feeders, a bird bath, and nesting boxes meets the needs of your local song birds. Butterfly Garden – All you need are host plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the butterflies. You can add some puddling stations and basking rocks to spoil your butterflies.

14 Toad abodes, turtle habitats, and more! Cleveland High in Blount CountyFalkville Elementary in Morgan County You can develop other “habitat areas” as learning stations: Toad Habitat - Provide mud for them to burrow in, a couple of overturned terracotta pots for shelter, a small bowl of water, and some plants that will attract bugs for them to eat and shade them from the sun. Turtle Habitats - Aquatic turtles need a small pond (at least 100 CF) with rocks to bask on, and fish and aquatic plants to eat and hide in. Terrestrial turtles like an Eastern box turtle needs a large bowl of clean water (at least 1 ft long, 8 in wide, 1 in deep) to drink and defecate in; plants, worms, and insects to eat; plants and leaf litter for shade; and some turned-over, partially-buried, large terracotta pots; for shelter.

15 You can also convert unlikely courtyards and drainage areas… University Place Elementary in Madison County - BEFORE You can also convert unlikely courtyards or drainage areas into an Outdoor Classroom. This drainage area at University Place Elementary in Madison County was an eye-sore and source of flooding at the school. The space is ~ 18 feet wide and ~ 80 feet long. But with some community support and some creativity… (see the next slide)

16 …into productive Outdoor Classrooms! University Place Elementary -- AFTER It’s now a productive Outdoor Classroom that the teachers and students both enjoy! The sidewalk leads to a fish pond and a frog pond. There are a variety of flowers and trees planted along the pathway. Students assist with the plantings and with watering the gardens. They also help care for the bird & squirrel feeding stations and the fish pond. The students have also learned to identify various forms of flora and fauna, use mathematical skills for measuring and graphing, and developed problem solving skills involving mapping and reading activities. Their Outdoor Classroom also provides inspiration for process writing activities.


18 What are the Benefits of participating in this program?  Free Outdoor Classroom Planning Guides for your planning committee  Free technical and organizational assistance through all phases of development, certification, and use of your outdoor classroom site

19 Additional Benefits…  Free tree seedlings donated by the Alabama Forestry Commission  Free volunteer service hours from trained Master Gardener volunteers through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System  Free in-service teacher training workshop(s)

20 Additional Benefits…  Outdoor Classroom Days Free technical and organizational assistance from Alabama Outdoor Classroom Partners to help schools design and build their learning stations…

21 Including… Bogs Butterfly Gardens Raised Bed Gardens Sensory Gardens Song Bird Habitats And More… Before (at 7:30 am) Cleveland High in Blount County After (at 2:30 pm)

22 …IN JUST ONE DAY!!! Cleveland High in Blount County …with the assistance of parents, Master Gardeners, and other school volunteers!

23 Additional Benefits…  Alabama Outdoor Classroom Certification including a personalized certificate recognizing your school as an official Alabama Outdoor Classroom and an Alabama Outdoor Classroom sign to post on your school grounds  An Outdoor Classroom Activity Kit

24  Discovering Alabama DVDs including nearly 70 copies of APTV’s show that explores Alabama’s biodiversity and natural heritage.  NWF’s Schoolyard Habitats  Certification Additional Benefits…

25 Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program Partners… Alabama Wildlife Federation Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources Alabama Cooperative Extension System Alabama Power Foundation National Wildlife Federation Vought Water Gardens in Decatur, AL Discovering Alabama & Project Community Alabama Forestry Commission Wallace State College’s Hopper Nursery

26 Finally…for more information… Visit the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s website at You can find information on: Conservation Ed Grants Teacher Workshops Hands-on Activities Frequently Asked Questions Informative Articles Planning Materials Conservation Education News

27 And Contact… April Waltz, AWF, 256/882-9322, Doyle Keasal, AWF/ACES, 334/844-6398, We are happy to assist you and your outdoor classroom planning committee with the development of your school’s outdoor classroom!

28 Thank you for your support! Please Support the Alabama Wildlife Federation! Become an AWF Member &/or Buy an AWF Tag at your local Probate Office…

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