Outdoor Classroom

Lone Pine staff and students officially opened the new outdoor classroom with an all-school ribbon cutting ceremony. The new classroom's name, the "Outdoor Hideout" was chosen by an all school nomination and voting process. Many thanks to the Lone Pine PTO, Main's Landscape Supply, and Designs in Nature for their contributions to this beautiful legacy for our school. The Outdoor Hideout can be found at the base of the wooden staircase leading to the lower fields.

The Outdoor Hideout was inspired by Mrs. Winkfield, who proposed the idea for an outdoor classroom to the PTO during the 2012-2013 school year. Mrs. Winkfield described an outdoor learning environment as a place where teachers could discuss topics and do activities with their students, and students could put on skits or presentations, all in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Numerous studies, including one from the Department of Education Research, have found that outdoor classrooms provide significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. The Children and Nature Network's research notes that student engagement increased on green school grounds as compared to indoors, and 70% of teachers reported that their motivation for teaching increased. Outdoor classrooms foster hands-on, inquiry-based learning; stimulate student brain development; result in critical thinking skills, imagination and creativity; and foster the use of systems thinking, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things. In an age when technology reigns and students frequently look at screens, an outdoor classroom gets children outside and learning in a natural environment.

According to Richard Louv's 2005 book Last Child In the Woods, human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of problems such as attention issues, childhood obesity, and depression. This has been termed "Nature deficit disorder." Installing an outdoor classroom can help promote healthy living and encourage students' appreciation for our earth.

The Lone Pine PTO was excited to support the development of an outdoor classroom following Mrs. Winkfield's presentation. The first step was getting the students excited about the project. Last spring, the Third Grade Green Team at Lone Pine, a voluntary group of environmentally aware and eco-friendly 3rd grade students, started researching how to create an outdoor classroom at Lone Pine. Led by 3rd grade teachers Mrs. Winkfield and Ms. Neun, the students assessed the school grounds for an ideal location for the outdoor classroom, and wrote reflections on why they felt a natural classroom would improve their educational experience. Then, over the summer, PTO president Leah Abel, Mrs. Winkfield, and Ms. Neun visited two local elementary schools in the metro area that had installed outdoor learning spaces, to see how they were formed and operated.

After the location at Lone Pine was chosen for the outdoor learning site, five possible designs were created, and the teachers voted on their favorite. The winning design consists of stone seats arranged in a semi-circular format. Three semi-circles of stones have space between them, with mulch covering the ground in between the stones. At the focal point is the teacher's space, consisting of three stones placed in a pyramid.

Main's Landscape Supply graciously donated the mulch, deliveries, equipment use, and time to supervise the creation of the outdoor learning space. Mr. Main brought in Mr. Mike Weslock of Designs in Nature, a local landscaping company, to provide the labor and installation for the project. Designs in Nature excavated the site with their equipment, and placed all the heavy stones in their positions. The Lone Pine PTO paid for the stone seats and the installation expenses.

A school-wide ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the outdoor classroom site to celebrate the space.

From the students' vantage point, on a slight hill sitting on the stone seats, one can see a lake to the left that is home to swans and geese. A natural marshy area sits to the front of the classroom site, and beyond that are the school's fields. It is a calm, peaceful and beautiful location for Lone Pine students to watch the world, learn, and grow.