Outdoor Education

Any educator can tell you that outdoor education and exploration, whether it’s in the students schoolyard or on a local field trip, can open children’s minds to the way the world works and create a fascination with nature. Documenting the impacts of outdoor education can be difficult though, and so the University of Chicago was commissioned to conduct an independent study of Boston’s Science in the Schoolyard (SSY) initiative. The survey results (from science teachers) highlighted the power of having outdoor classrooms on school sites and targeted training programs for educators.

Some of the findings of the Science in the Schoolyard Evaluation:

  • Students who go outdoors for science indicate greater interest and confidence in science.
  • Students who go outdoors for science are more likely to report that they observe, investigate, use science vocabulary, and demonstrate independence and curiosity.
  • Teachers report particular benefits of outdoor science education for English Language Learners and students with disabilities, including vocabulary development.

The Boston Schoolyard Leadership Committee is the advocacy group furthering Boston’s work in outdoor education and play. A map of outdoor education resources has also been created.[/tab]
Since 1995, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative (BSI) has been transforming Boston’s schoolyards from barren asphalt lots into dynamic centers for recreation, learning and community life. School-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, BSI has reached children, families, community members and teachers with vibrant outdoor spaces for increased physical activity and creative new approaches to using the schoolyard for teaching and learning.

The 35 Outdoor Classrooms and 90 Schoolyards built over the last 20 years provide urban schools with varied natural eco-system features, weather stations, vegetable and herb beds, and safe play spaces. These resources promote physical activity for our students and the Outdoor classrooms provide outdoor learning spaces that nurture an awareness and stewardship for the natural environment as well as provide students real connections back to curriculum that improve student learning. Over 20 years BSI also developed outdoor lessons and professional development for teachers.

BSI accomplished their work through a public-private partnership between the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools and the Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative. The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation now serves as their fiscal sponsor.

Here is an excellent video about the work that BSI has accomplished over the past two decades, in service to our schools.

Read more about BSI’s accomplishments in the The Atlantic and about how “Boston Leads the Way  Outside” in the fall 2014 Foss Newsletter. And explore a wealth of schoolyard and outdoor classroom design, maintenance, curriculum and more at  www.schoolyards.org

Urban gardening has become a popular activity for students of all ages in Boston. Most schools have at least one raised garden bed that can be found planted with herbs, fruit trees, vegetables and flowers. If you’re looking to build or expand a garden at your school consider connecting with a local Garden Partner and read through the garden guidelines below.