The goal of this three year project is to create 15 model schools that integrate outdoor learning and garden based education in a holistic way across academic content areas. Ten down, five to go!
This spring, GROW will be accepting applications for Year 3 of the Growing Outdoor Classroom Program.
By submitting an application, your school, if selected, is committing to fully participate in the Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program. This year-long program begins May 2014. All schools will be expected to have completed their outdoor classrooms by June 2015. Any public elementary and middle school in Dane County is eligible to apply. Applications are due April 11, 2014 by 5:00 p.m.
In May 2014, 5 schools from Dane County will be selected to participate in Year 3 of the Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program to:
Create or further develop their outdoor classroom; and
Engage and educate their colleagues and community about the connections between learning, outdoor classrooms and sustainability.
Specifically, each participating school will:
With the technical support of the GROW Coalition, create or further develop an outdoor classroom through crafting and executing:
An outdoor classroom design;
A plan to facilitate faculty and staff use of the outdoor classroom to teach academic content;
A community engagement plan;
An outdoor classroom build event(s).
Share their knowledge and skills regarding outdoor learning with their colleagues a minimum of one time during the school year during, for example, at a staff meeting or during Professional Collaboration Time.
Implement 1 other sustainability project at the school, in support of the themes addressed in the outdoor classroom.
Send 2 representatives to monthly 2-hour sessions on outdoor classrooms and sustainability. One of those attendees must be a teacher. School representation is required at 7 of the 8 sessions.
Send 2 Green Team members to a 20-hour garden-based learning Summer Institute during the week of July 28- July 31, 2014. One of those attendees must be a teacher.
Actively communicate with the school and broader community about the Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program (for example, through e-mails, Facebook, newsletter articles, press releases).
In return for the commitment of each school to the goals and outcomes of this program, each school will receive the following:
Support to create or enhance their outdoor classroom design.
A facilitated workshop to develop a Community Engagement Plan.
Substantial material assistance ($8,000 value) for the outdoor classroom.
Monthly educational and networking events, called Sustainability Sessions, addressing outdoor classrooms, learning and sustainability.
A one-week garden-based learning Summer Institute scheduled for July 29-July 31, 2014 for 2 Green Team members.
From Nicole Nelson, MMSD GROW Pilot Program Coordinator October 8, 2013
Last week, two GROW schools hosted a whole-staff Garden-Based Education Professional Development. They were held at Toki MS (Mary Goonan from SHMS presented) and at Muir Elementary (Susie Hobart and Martha Stryker presented). Thank you to Toki and Muir for fitting Garden-based Education into your precious Professional Development schedule!
Muir held their PD outside in the garden and woods (it was such a beautiful day!!). Teachers first explored the garden/woods and then answered three questions on post-its in regards to teaching outdoors: 1) What I’m doing already. 2) What I’d like to do. 3) What I need/fear. These responses will help the PD team plan for how to best support teachers in outdoor education. Susie followed up by asking teachers to complete an Outdoor Classroom Curriculum Web to help Muir’s staff make connections between their curricula and the garden. Martha ended the session by demonstrating a fun outdoor “Morning Meeting” activity.
The energy and growth demonstrated by this professional learning community is palpable, particularly when they gather outdoors! Kudos to all.
Schools recently selected for the 2013 – 2014 Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program are Lapham Elementary, Orchard Ridge Elementary, and Sherman Middle School in Madison as well as Prairie Elementary in Waunakee, and Marshall Early Learning Center in Marshall.
As children returned to class last week, five area elementary and middle schools greeted their students with a new and wild kind of learning experience – an outdoor education.
It’s part of an innovative program led by the GROW Coalition (Grass Roots Outdoor Wonder) to promote outdoor learning and sustainability through school gardens and other natural spaces. “Growing Outdoor Classrooms,” the program aims to incorporate garden-based learning into K-8 curricula in Dane County schools.
The schools selected for the 2013 – 2014 Growing Outdoor Classrooms program are Lapham Elementary (Near East Madison), Marshall Early Learning Center (Marshall), Orchard Ridge Elementary (West Madison), Prairie Elementary (Waunakee), and Sherman Middle School (North Madison).
With major multi-year funding from the Madison Community Foundation, the selected schools each receive $8000 to build or expand an outdoor classroom or school garden. The GROW Coalition provides program support and expert resources for the design and development of the outdoor learning experience, and Sustain Dane facilitates complimentary sustainability workshops and school-based sustainability projects. The EPA provides additional funding through a Climate Showcase Communities grant.
“This program is holistic and innovative in its approach to community-supported curriculum development around sustainability,” says Julie Jarvis, Sustain Dane Director of Sustainable Schools Initiatives. Jarvis notes that a growing number of schools across the nation are recognizing the educational and health benefits of incorporating sustainability into their curriculum and operations. Outdoor classrooms, whether a vegetable garden, a rain garden, a woodland or a prairie, are a cornerstone of that effort, supporting and engaging students, especially those facing academic challenges.
Last year, in the first year of the program, nearly 2,000 students at five schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District engaged in school-wide design exercises, “garden nights,” garden-based class projects, and all-out garden build days. Leading businesses in the region got involved. CUNA Mutual Group, an MPower Business Champion, joined forces with Muir Elementary School to build a 5,000 square foot garden. Muir staff, students, parents, community volunteers and 100 CUNA Mutual Group employees laid compost, weed barrier and wood chips on paths in and around a garden constructed on school grounds.
Jen Greenwald, who teaches second grade at Muir Elementary, said, ”when kids are in the garden, they ask boundless questions about what they see, feel, taste and hear. They eat food they never would otherwise try because they grew it themselves. When we ask them to go back to the indoor classroom, they protest. They don’t want to leave this wonder-filled place they have created.”
This summer 12 teachers, from 5 MMSD schools, took part in the GROW Pilot Summer Institute at Troy Gardens. Funded by the Madison Community Foundation and facilitated by Community GroundWork’s Nathan Larson and Beth Hanna, and MMSD’s Nicole Nelson, the Institute provided professional development on outdoor and garden-based learning.
While listening to children work in the gardens and birds chirp overhead, teachers were able to collaborate on garden-based curricula development and brainstorm ideas to make outdoor classrooms more accessible to all students and staff members. A field trip to the Goodman Youth Farm, and to the gardens at Glendale, Lapham, and Sherman inspired the participants to consider new design ideas for expanding their own schools’ outdoor classrooms.
Guest presenters included Anne Forbes, who led a “Phenology Wheel” workshop, and Sam Dennis, a UW-Madison professor of landscape architecture and expert on nature play and children’s built environments. One participant remarked, “Troy Gardens has inspired me to be a more holistic person – I WANT TO SING SONGS IN MY CLASSROOM! And move, dig in the dirt, lie on the ground, harvest food and cook it, plant things, talk about nature and experience it!” Another stated, “To collaborate and dream, problem-solve and reflect with energized colleagues in a gorgeous outdoor setting was such a gift. I have been inspired and empowered!”
Nearly 2,000 students at five schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District engaged in school-wide design exercises, “garden nights,” garden-based class projects, and all-out garden build days.
“Kids learn best when they fully use their senses,” says Jen Greenwald, who teaches second grade at Muir Elementary on Madison’s west side. “When they are in the garden, they ask boundless questions about what they see, feel, taste and hear. They eat food they never would otherwise try because they grew it themselves. When we ask them to go back to the indoor classroom, they protest. They don’t want to leave this wonder-filled place they have created.”
Students and teachers participated in multiple ways. Lincoln Elementary School Kindergarteners whooped it up at a salad party. Sixth graders at Toki Middle School designed and presented to their parents and teachers full-scale blueprints for a new garden at the corner of Whitney Way and Russet Road in Madison’s Meadowview Neighborhood. They identified their favorite design elements and built their garden.
“The energy at Toki’s Earth Day Every Day festival was unbelievable,” says Shelly Strom, Garden Specialist with the Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin. “The sixth graders produced thoughtful, detailed plans of how they would design the space. They were completely engaged from the beginning through the build.” Strom, a landscape architect by training, led design sessions at the GROW Pilot schools using a model outlined in Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation.
“What we see is a critical need for youth to connect the dots,” says Mary Michaud, Director of Community health for Public Health Madison & Dane County, and co-founder of the GROW Coalition. “Research tells us that kids who grow their own food are more likely to ask for fresh vegetables and fruits at home. In gardens, youth feel the power of place-making and that the community values them. Outdoor classrooms and nature-based play spaces are some of the most visible, tangible ways we can say, ‘We care about our kids.'”
Teachers, principals and parents from each of the schools formed teams to guide the process of integrating garden-based learning into school curricula and culture. School communities embraced the possibilities. Teachers attended workshops as part of a Professional Learning Community. Topics included engaging children in garden-based learning; how to engage members of the community in garden design, construction and maintenance; design strategies to enhance outdoor learning; and strategies to work with students in hands-on settings.
On Madison’s north side, teacher Susie Hobart organized volunteers from many walks to build a grand new pavilion adjacent to Lakeview Elementary’s new raised bed gardens. At Muir Elementary, intense winter and spring planning events were followed by an energetic day of garden building, where more than 400 K-5 students rotated through to install 16 beds and a wooded path, guided by a talented group of GROW program staff and aided by a volunteers corps from CUNA Mutual.
Tom Linfield, Vice President of Grantmaking at Madison Community Foundation helped out during the build. “It was tremendous to see K-5 kids working alongside the CUNA Mutual volunteers, moving dirt, planting vegetables, filling wheelbarrows full of mulch, planting trees. This kinds of school/community collaboration is precisely what we’d hoped for and stands as a model for what the project will achieve over the coming years.”
The collaboration extends to teachers, too. Because of bonds that formed through the professional learning communities, teachers from Spring Harbor Middle School (an environmental education magnet school) visited teachers at Lincoln Elementary, sharing tips and ideas to engage kids and families in outdoor learning.
Effective collaboration is not easy, but it’s a worthwhile cornerstone of an effective effort to address sticky social challenges. GROW Pilot staff and members of the GROW Coalition Steering Committee are reviewing applications for a new group of five Year 2 GROW schools from across Dane County. If year two produces anything like the energy and action of year one, we may just have a movement on our hands.
Looking for ways to expand your classroom into the forest? Check out the Center for Ecoliteracy’s Oak Woodland Learning Activities. Students learn to look at an ecosystem — the oak woodland — as a system and, by doing so, become aware of relationships among living things, the processes and patterns that drive survival and evolution, and the importance of abiotic characteristics in sustaining life.
From Susie Hobart, teacher at Lakeview Elementary on Madison’s North Side.
Lakeview Elementary School is one of five schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District to win a grant and participate in an innovative, three-year garden-based learning pilot project funded by the Madison Community Foundation. Susie is a teacher on the school’s team.
We need your help on Monday, May 13th at 3:30. Read on for an update…
Led by our volunteer contractor (Tim Connor) and volunteer architect (Tom Hirsch) on Saturday, May 4th, we measured and squared the structure for our pavlion, dug five foot holes, set the 300 pound poles, braced the structure and put up one of the 500 pound headers. Sunday, May 5th, four dads, one gym teacher, one mom and one friendly lawyer put the last header up, up, up.
Monday, Lycon arrived and poured concrete around the footings, and our architect’s grandaughters smoothed the tops. (Funded by the LOWES Foundation)
Next step – Monday, May 13th, after school around 3:30 we hope to put up the rafters and if really lucky, screw down the tongue and groove plywood roof sheathing. WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Next we will construct frames around the posts 30″ from the ground and have Lycon come back and pour colored concrete in the framing, giving our footings above ground stability. If we are really lucky, Brandon Lincoln will arrive and lay the roofing. If not that day, soon.
Once the pavilion is constructed, our very own art teacher, Mr. Vang, will install the hundreds of 3 x 3 inch nature based clay tiles made by our very own k-5 artists from the top of the concrete to the top of the structure. (Funded by the Madison Arts Council) Our 4/5th graders will be installing a rain garden between the school and the pavilion to take advantage of the runoff and create a bird friendly habitat. (Funded by National Forestry Foundation)
A wonderful volunteer, Dean, is working with students to build 4 eight foot cedar picnic tables (funded by Willy St) that will serve as seating in the pavilion. Our friend, Mr. Richard, a retired art teacher, has helped some of our budding artists paint nature murals on the bench seats. Under the pavilion will also be our garden kitchen i.e. a stainless steel table and sink from Kessenichs. (Funded by GHC and the Dane County/ City of Madison Health Department.)
Our new garden beds are up! And thanks to James Kudzin’s carpentry and our GROW grant, and Vesna’s earth leveling, we now have twelve beds. Two for strawberries, one a Hmong demonstration bed, one a sensory garden and eight for eight of our classrooms. Our K-1st graders planted seeds in science, and now the older students get to transplant them.Moms, Vesna, Zivile and Melissa are all helping classes plant the beds.
We are working to clear the buckthorn, honeysuckles and garlic mustard from the woods. Students are creating walking paths and sitting areas. We are hoping to create a meditative walking path through the woods on our UW Health sponsored Wellness Day, June 10th.
A small group of interested north siders are investigating the purchase of the wetlands adjacent to the school. It could provide a wonderful educational ecosystem for students.
Did you notice that our bushes adjacent to the parking lot are disappearing? We will be replacing the scraggly bushes with edible bushes…service berries and a variety of raspberries.
We are so fortunate to have so many volunteers and parties willing to help us financially. Our friends at the WI Environmental Education Board and Keith Warnke of the DNR were the catalysts last summer.
The plans for the pavilion are in the office windows and garden area plans posted upstairs. Stop and see them. Better yet, come on back around the school, and see what is going on in our exciting OUTDOOR CLASSROOM. Feel free to pull some garlic mustard or stir the compost bins. And if you can, please join us this Monday or at our next pavilion work day.
— Susan J Hobart, MSEd, NBCT Lake View Elementary School Madison Metropolitan School District
The GROW Garden-based Learning project, funded by the Madison Community Foundation, is looking for five Dane County schools (two middle and three elementary schools) who are ready to jump in! Download an application for the 2013-14 cohort!
If you are not a Facebook user or haven’t had a chance to look over the great outdoor learning resources we’ve assembled from around the Internet, take a gander at the following list–all resources posted to the GROW Facebook page over the past year! If you have something to add, get in touch!