The class of the willow tree is the combined vision of teachers, students, community members, and the school board. A group that has a common goal, provide an exceptional learning experience to students at the high school Odyssée Valcourt QC Canada. The project encompasses several subjects and is based on the main idea, Outdoor learning? Yes in my class! The article will cover the design and construction of the outdoor classroom.
Conception and construction of the « The class of the Willow tree »
1) Why build an outdoor class?
a) To respond to the nature deficit.
b) To experience varied learning situations.
c) To awaken the 5 senses.
d) To develop a stonger connection to the environment .
e) It’s a tool for developing eco-citizenship.
2) The conception
As any real estate agent will tell you, what are the three most importants factors in selling or buying a house is: Location, Location and Location. The same goes for our outdoor class.
The class is located at the back of the school. It’s a calm and quiet space. We thought about the location of the class for a long time and asked the following questions.
a) Can we use natural shading?
b) Where are the sun’s rays during the day?
c) Where are the shaded area during school hours ?
d) Does the land drain well?
3) Construction of « The class of the Willow
The stages of construction
The site was not leveled. There was a slope towards to the south side. We took this drop and we used it to our advantage. (Amphitheater type) However, we had to build a wall on two levels to mitigate the slope, which allows to delimit the space of the class and which facilitates the maintenance.
We also added a geotextile fabric to limit weed growth. We added two 4-inch perforated drains to make sure the class did not become a pool.
The drains were then covered with gravel.
When the base was installed, we covered the canvases with hardwood mulch. (no conifer because it acidifies the soil)
We installed pic-nic tables and a blackboard. We now have an outdoor
classroom that sits 32 students
4) List of materials and budget
5) The five keys to succes for an outdoor classroom
Involve as many people as possible. Parents, students, colleagues, professionals, people in the community. Through your social networks, ask for help. You are a vector of change in your school so reach out for help.
b) The visual
The visual is a very important factor. We export our class outside. So we are in public view. The place must be clean and friendly. A place where you want to be.
You must make the class accessible to the largest number of users. That the class is not associated with a particular person or subject. Make the space pleasant and convivial. It is a learning space, a staff meeting space, an outdoor dining room, a gathering spot after school hours.
d) The partners
It is important to knock on the door of several places to spread the idea of a project. Find a possible partnership with the city for materials, with a hardware store for the wood, businesses that can help you financially. When you do it, you must have a salesman mentalityt. How can you encourage the participation of local businesses? What is the advantage for companies to get involved in the project? Ask! The worst thing you can get as an answer is no.
The management of your school must be in agreement and even be a partner of the project. By presenting a well-developed project, the management can only embark with you. It makes the process much more viable and gives a sense of legitimacy to the project.