Outdoor Education

Bring teaching outside- use your school’s outdoor classroom! 

The Boston Schoolyard Initiative offers a number of e-resources at schoolyards.org to support teachers using the outdoor classrooms. Contact BPS Sustainability & Environmental Resources Manager Katherine Walsh if you would like a hard copy of the Outdoor Classroom’s User Guide, Story Book, or Education Program Guide.

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. Since documenting the impacts of outdoor education can be difficult, 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 were:

  • 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.

From 1995-2005, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative (BSI) transformed Boston’s schoolyards from barren asphalt lots into dynamic centers for recreation, learning, and community life. School-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, BSI connected 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 20 years provide urban schools with varied natural eco-system features, weather stations, vegetable and herb beds, and safe play spaces. The Schoolyards promote physical activity for our students and the Outdoor Classrooms provide outdoor learning spaces that nurture an awareness and stewardship for the natural environment. 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. 

Read more about BSI’s accomplishments in the The Atlantic and about how “Boston Leads the Way  Outside” in the fall 2014 Foss Newsletter. Explore a wealth of schoolyard and outdoor classroom design, maintenance, curriculum and more at schoolyards.org. For a school-based example, follow updates from the Everett School’s outdoor classroom.

OUTDOOR CLASSROOM USER GUIDE

The Outdoor Classroom User Guide is designed to help you understand how to best use and steward your outdoor classroom. For additional information, please visit www.schoolyards.org.

SCHOOLYARD AND OUTDOOR CLASSROOM MAINTENANCE

GREEN STORMWATER INFRASTRUCTURE AT BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

In 2014, the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (Commission) approached BPS about collaborating on Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development (GI/LID) pilot projects to coincide with BPS’s comprehensive Educational and Facility Master Planning process (BuildBPS).

GI/LID is a stormwater management approach that mimics nature. In the natural world, rainwater soaks, or infiltrates, into the soil. Unfortunately, rainwater can no longer infiltrate into the ground because of buildings, pavement, sidewalks and other urban surfaces. GI/LID features capture raindwater runoff and filter the stormwater through plants and soil before it returns to the groundwater system. Learn more on the Commission’s website.

The Commission and BPS selected five schools throughout Boston, schools that are in areas of high pollutant (phosphorus) loading. The five GI/LID pilot schools are: the Washington Irving Middle School (watch the ribbon cutting ceremony), Rafael Hernandez K-8 School, David A. Ellis Elementary School, Jackson/Mann K-8 School and Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers (Fenwood location). The Commission, with the help of an engineering firm called Horsley Witten Group, designed the GI/LID features to include rain gardens, bioretention areas, bioswales, tree pits/tree trenches, stormwater chambers, and more!

The Commission also worked with a former BPS curriculum writer and the Charles River Watershed Association to author stormwater/GI curriculum for 5th and 7th grade, in accordance with the new MA Science and Technology/ Engineering Standards, to accompany the five pilot projects.

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