On June 28th, the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland broke ground on their first outdoor classroom at Louis Stokes Head Start. An outdoor classroom is a learning space that will be used by teachers and students year-round in all weather. The classroom will have a natural feel with features such as tree stumps, tables, benches, a gardening space, a water table, musical instruments and a stage, green space, dirt beds for digging, a variety of textures for students to touch, a playground, and options for arts, science, math, and more that bring traditional classroom elements outdoors. The space will be certified by Nature Explore, a comprehensive, research-based initiative to help children and families develop a profound engagement with the natural world, where nature is an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning. Once the school year starts and the build is complete, the teachers at Louis Stokes will work together to come up with a curriculum and a schedule for the outdoor classroom.
Research has shown the benefits of outdoor classrooms for kids, including helping with behavior and focus issues. Dr. Thea Wilson, the Vice President for Children and Families at the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland, says, “This outdoor classroom gives our children the opportunity to expand their understanding of the environment. It allows teachers to incorporate nature in a tangible way, and it gives the students the chance to learn outside of the typical classroom setting.”
This will be the first outdoor classroom at a Head Start center in the state of Ohio, but it won’t be the last. A second outdoor classroom is in the works at another CEOGC site. The classroom was made possible by funding from Cuyahoga County’s UPK program and was designed by Meyer Design with guidance from Nature Explore.
There are still seats available for the fall at Louis Stokes Head Start, which serves 3- and 4-year-olds.