The students at Deerwood Academy were excited to explore the school’s new outdoor learning space as soon as the opening ribbon was cut.
The new Out Teach outdoor learning space includes a weather station, an outdoor whiteboard, seating for a full class and two raised vegetable beds.
The vegetable beds have already shown signs of life with sprouts of collard greens, thyme and celery already breaking through the topsoil and growing. The outdoor learning space opens up a new opportunity for students and teachers to innovate and expand their learning experiences.
“We want to express our gratitude to Atlanta Public Schools (APS) for being able to bring this opportunity to our school as we partnered with Out Teach, Royal Foods and Atlanta United to build an outdoor classroom for our students,” Deerwood Academy principal Joy Antone said. “We are excited because it definitely brings about a lot of different opportunities. Whether it’s just being able to connect and understand, or coming up with the possibilities of solving real-world problems and issues and looking at how we can use this space and the vegetables that we’re growing to help our community.”
Out Teach is a national educational non-profit organization that builds outdoor learning labs and trains teachers to use them to improve math, science and language arts instruction. They partnered with Royal Foods and Atlanta United to help bring the outdoor learning space to Deerwood Academy.
“We are really built to inspire and prepare tomorrow’s leaders, innovators, and scientists. We really believe that the next generation is in our elementary schools and in Atlanta Public Schools,” Out Teach vice president of partnerships and growth Suzannah Koilpillai said. “We know that this space, moving forward, will provide an opportunity for teachers to get their kids inspired and engaged. We know that when they come out here now, there will be an experiment waiting to happen around every corner.”
Deerwood Academy is the fifth APS school to receive an Out Teach learning space within the last year. Dobbs Elementary and Finch Elementary Schools both have learning spaces, while Usher-Collier and Dunbar Elementary School have Out Teach learning labs. Miles Elementary School will be the next APS school to open an outdoor learning lab.
“It’s important for us to ensure that kids have innovative experiences not only inside, but also outside the classroom. This really helps them to focus on experiential learning, as well as learning about their community and how to give back to their community,” APS’ director of innovation and redesign Dione Simon said. “They’ll have an opportunity to not only learn science, math and literacy out here, but also learn how to grow things that can help them and community members.”
After the unveiling of the outdoor learning space, Out Teach led the students through a few educational activities to introduce them to their new outdoor classroom and learn some new facts about the vegetables they will be caring for.
“We created a garden club, and so our staff and students will be caring for those veggie beds as well as coming out to the outdoor classroom and experiencing nature and just being able to relate the world around them to what they are learning in class,” Antone said.