Outdoor Classroom is an innovative opportunity to engage students on multiple levels and disciplines by providing a multi-use and multi-age approach to a natural learning environment. Research shows outdoor classrooms contribute to increased imaginations, critical thinking skills, cooperative student behaviors, and positive attention spans that develop from the interests of students. Outdoor Classroom serves the over 450 currently enrolled students, faculty and the Council Oak community.
Elements of the outdoor classroom include a Children’s Forest, Prairie Classroom and, in the near future, a Science Education Classroom. Construction of the space commenced in December 2014 and culminated in a Grand Opening in May 2015. A Science Education classroom with two water labs was added in spring 2017. With an emphasis on STEM education, the Outdoor Classroom provides a unique atmosphere for students and teachers to engage all disciplines in a natural environment.
The outdoor classroom has become an extension of our students’ daily education. At any given time, multiple classes are engaged in discovery and nature investigations, science observation and sketching, literacy, music and more. The space permits students to take part in hands-on and lab centered lessons to enrich and deepen their acquisition of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) skills and concepts. The students recently planted pollinator and habitat gardens, which will increase biodiversity and ecological interactions and teach students the role of pollinators in the natural/agriculture systems.
Through the pandemic, during the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 school years, the Foundation continued to fundraise and maintain the school grounds through unique outdoor and socially distant ways.
In the Spring of 2021 Principal Aubrey Flowers approached the Foundation with an ambitious proposal. Could the investments made in the outdoor classroom over the last decade be put to their full potential? Could the Foundation commit to fund a teacher for outdoor classroom year round starting in the 2021/2022 school year? After thoughtful consideration, the Foundation funded the first year with intent and purpose to provide permanent recurring financial support for the specials curriculum! The commitment to permanent recurring teacher funding and learning supplies, continued maintenance of the grounds, and new investments in outdoor classroom infrastructure are our priorities as we enter this new chapter for the outdoor classroom!
Our curriculum team presented “A School’s Journey Back to Nature” at the Southern Early Childhood Association (“SECA”) national conference. We are so proud to see our work being recognized. Council Oak was also selected to be a member of “Oklahoma Green Schools.”
We are grateful for the generosity of our donors for making the Outdoor Classroom possible. Your investment in Council Oak School and public education will pay dividends for years to come!