Outdoor Classroom

Oak Grove opens first of series of outdoor classrooms across district
Posted on 09/26/2023
An outdoor classroom opened on Friday, Sept. 1, at Oak Grove.

The first of a series of outdoor classrooms has opened to students in a fresh air movement that is taking place at school sites across the district where space allows.

Oak Grove Elementary began taking advantage of its new outdoor classroom for innovative uses teachers have come up with this month. Lake Road and Middle School are also in the process of building outdoor classrooms, pending the arrival of remaining supplies or in-kind labor, according to the respective principals.

“Research shows that every student learns differently, whether in a traditional chair or sitting on the floor; having that flexibility—and the ability to get up and move in the natural sun—is good for the morale of students and a focused staff,” stated Kristie Robinson, Oak Grove principal. “It’s a bright, sunny place for kids to be excited to come to and engage in. Getting them up and walking outside—[albeit] still doing the same work—has been very impactful for us.”

Robinson led the planning phase in the spring, surveying the staff and then forming a committee to review the options to ensure the space is usable long term, “not just until the novelty wears off,” the principal said. She noted that the Maintenance Department took care of the fencing and ground cover that was necessary to minimize the upkeep.

After record hot temperatures the first week of school and a short shipment delay, the furniture items were installed for faculty members to start booking the space, up to two classes at a time, through a sign-up system. Educators over grades 1-3 have used the space for classroom instruction as well as group activities.

First grade teacher Cassie LeGrand, who served on the planning committee, said she has been utilizing the fresh air as a classroom management tool when students have a good week “to reset their minds,” she stated. She most recently led a scavenger hunt, and has previously brought out her pet bearded dragon.

“The outdoor classroom is an amazing space for students to interact with one another and supplement the overall learning experience,” added Kaisha Pigg, third grade teacher. “Students are able to utilize the space as a whole group, small group or independently.”

Oak Grove’s outdoor classroom, accessible through the front campus addition, includes weather-proof benches and standing coated tables, dry erase boards, an easel for anchor charts, a magnetic board for STEM activities (science, technology, engineering and math) and other supplies specific for the environment.

The space is partially shaded by the building overhang with umbrellas for additional coverage, though Robinson says she has a more permanent solution to ensure the option is available whenever the temperature is mild or moderate. Future plans include installing a small platform for presentations, and a couple of raised garden beds in an adjacent grassy area.

“Just a change of scenery sometimes can change everything in a classroom,” Robinson continued. “There’s a misconception for teachers to feel like it has to be tied to science exploration. It doesn’t have to be an outdoor lesson, it can just be a lesson taken outdoors – and we’ve provided everything they need to do that.”

Each outdoor classroom in the works has been made possible with Title 1 funding, according to Director of Federal Programs JoAnne Westbrook, the Early Childhood principal. The Middle School is additionally collaborating with its Parent Teacher Organization to provide a carport canopy for another layer of protection from the elements, Principal Dr. Josh Teeter reported.


Cutline: An outdoor classroom opened on Friday, Sept. 1, at Oak Grove in previously unutilized space that was created as a result of the 2016 building connection.

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