Travels with Herb Broda: Glenwood Elementary, Chapel Hill, NC

March 16th, 2009

Herb Broda, the author of Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning, is taking a sabbatical from teaching at Ashland University in Ohio this spring to visit schools that are using the outdoors as part of their curriculum. He will be stopping by the Stenhouse Blog to tell us about his visits and share some of his experiences at various schools. He will also share student work, along with strategies used by teachers to weave the school grounds into the curriculum. If you know of a school that is doing a great job of integrating the outdoors into learning, contact Herb at hbroda@ashland.edu.

This week I had a great visit to the outdoor classroom of Sally Massengale, an educator at Glenwood Elementary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Although Sally shared many wonderful ideas with me, I was especially impressed with how she worked hard to build an interest in school ground exploration by creatively displaying outdoor discoveries indoors.

Sally has an amazingly simple and highly interactive way to remind children of outdoor discoveries and encourage further careful observation. Right outside of the cafeteria door, probably one of the busiest stretches of hallway in the building, Sally has put up a simple diagram of the school grounds. As students find interesting natural specimens of plants or animals, they take an index card and sketch what they saw and then, often with her help, identify what it was. The card is then placed beside the diagram with a piece of yarn that links the natural item with its location on the school grounds. The result is a frequently changing update of what has been discovered on the site. The location in a busy area of the building ensures that that many students will pause and take a look.

The map of the school grounds at Glenwood Elementary School

The map of the school grounds at Glenwood Hill Elementary School

In this same area outside of the cafeteria she has set up a simple weather monitoring display. Kids keep track of simple data like humidity, rainfall, temperature, cloud cover, etc. Although many teachers track this type of data within a classroom, Sally has made this a very public display of environmental information that everyone in the building can see. It sends a powerful message that emphasizes what is happening right around the building.

The weather watching station

The weather monitoring station

I’m very eager to hear what you are doing at your school! Please share your unique ideas for incorporating the outdoors into your teaching.

Entry Filed under: Content Areas

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joan Walker  |  March 16th, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I teach at Carolina Friends School just outside of Chapel Hill. We are blessed with a wonderful natural setting which we use in many ways. I am in our Lower School. A small creek flows by our Lower School playground and at recess students get boots and explore the creek. Students gather natural materials and build forts on the playground. We often do “soul writing” in which students write in nature about what they hear, see, feel as they sit quietly in an outdoor setting. We garden, collect insect specimens, craft little critters that camouflage into our children’s garden, and more. The natural world around us can be a learning inspiration for both students and teachers.

  • 2. Herb Broda  |  March 16th, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Wow! Your students are indeed blessed—not only to have the natural features of your school site, but also to have a teacher who recognizes the importance of outdoor experience. Creek exploring and fort building are the kinds of creative play that many children simply don’t experience today. There is interesting research that shows that today’s children associate play with a brand name toy or product, while previously children identified play with a creative activity (like creek exploring or fort building!). Do you have any pictures of the little critters that camouflage into your children’s garden? Sounds like a great activity!

  • 3. Travels with Herb Broda: &hellip  |  March 30th, 2010 at 9:38 am

    […] his travels during his sabbatical this spring. In previous posts he reported about a school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio. This week he shares what he saw at Granny’s Garden School near […]

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