Madison Middle School is excited to implement its new outdoor classroom, created and put into use at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. The classroom includes 15 convertible desks to benches, an outdoor white board, butterfly garden, and the AHLI garden. During the spring, the student council will be putting in a rock garden. This outdoor classroom is available to all teachers, staff, and students in the Middle School during all periods throughout the day, as well as lunch periods if students should choose to eat outside.
“The outdoor classroom represents a renewed awareness that nature has always been our classroom,” says Ms. Colarik, Health & PE teacher at MMS who was the brains behind the project. “Most of our current indoor classrooms are artificial environments which are limited in their ability to stimulate and engage most learners in full body experiences required for genuine learning. Outdoor classrooms are those 4-D environments that students of today require.”
The outdoor classroom uses experiential teaching methodologies to engage students by fostering active, hands-on, inquiry-based learning in a real-world setting. By employing the outdoor classroom, learning becomes a multi-sensory experience, engaging all five senses to strengthen students’ ability to retain an intimate, physical memory of activities that are long-lasting and synergistic.
“As a mini-ecosystem, the outdoor classroom emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things, lending itself to interdisciplinary studies,” adds Ms. Colarik. “It also recognizes and celebrates differing learning styles in our students.”
Every student has a different learning style, and MMS aims to accommodate each of these learning styles in order to support the academic success of all. Outdoor classrooms provide a more experiential approach for students who may not benefit as much from text-based environments; this approach also connects the school to the neighborhood and extended community, emphasizing social involvement and responsibility. The outdoor classroom has already been used for multiple academic studies, such as science, math, English, and foreign language classes, as well as performances and visual arts studies.
This outdoor classroom could not have been created or funded without the assistance of several community members and businesses, along with funds provided by Principal Whaley and the Physical Education Department’s yearly fundraisers.