Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Statewide Outdoor Classroom Symposium Held in Chapel Hill

North Carolina’s first Outdoor Classroom Symposium was held October 22-24 at the N.C. Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. This symposium focused on techniques for creating, maintaining and using outdoor classrooms and provided strategies for integrating outdoor learning into the curriculum. More than 150 teachers, teacher assistants, school administrators, parent volunteers, non-formal educators, landscape architects and playground designers from across the state came together for this inaugural event. The symposium was held in the N.C. Botanical Garden's new education center, which was designed to meet Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. This is the highest level of certification for green buildings.

Session topics included how to create specific types of school gardens and natural areas, how to start farm-to-school programs and how to design and use school grounds to enhance learning across the curriculum. The symposium was a partnership between the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program (APNEP), the N.C. Office of Environmental Education, the Environmental Education Fund, the N.C. Botanical Garden at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the Natural Learning Initiative at N.C. State University.

The symposium ended with Saturday tours of Piedmont-area schools, environmental education centers and farmers markets. Cam Collyer, one of the symposium's two keynote speakers who lives and works in Toronto, joined in on the tours and was very impressed with what he saw, noting that our state already has some great schoolyard learning projects for others to model. (Watch this video story about George Watts Elementary, one of the school gardens on the tour)

Speakers included Dr. Dilafruz Williams, founding director of the Leadership in Ecology, Culture and Learning program at Portland State University; Brian Day, executive director of the North American Association for Environmental Education; Cam Collyer, director of the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds Program; Beverly G. Vance, Interim Section Chief K-12 Science, N.C. Department of Public Instruction and Dr. Robin Moore, professor of Landscape Architecture at North Carolina State University and an internationally-recognized researcher and author on outdoor learning environments. N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Dee Freeman finished out the sessions with closing remarks.

Based on the positive participant feedback, the Office of Environmental Education and APNEP plan to hold follow-up workshops and future symposia. Articles and peer-reviewed research on the academic and health benefits of outdoor learning and environmental education are available on the N.C. Office of Environmental Education's Research & Data page.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments to this site are subject to the N.C. Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties. Please identify yourself in posts. Off-topic posts, "spam" or posts with offensive or inappropriate language will be removed.