E.T. A LOCAL WAY OF LEARNING
Title: OUTDOOR CLASSROOM
Author: Jane Ducey
Eulalie R. Rivera Elementary School
Grade Level: All grades and adults
1. The Sun 1. Science
2. Ecosystem 2. Social Studies
3. Carrying Capacity 3. Math
The School Beautification Committee and/or the Environmental Education Team
shall plan and plant indigenous trees and shrubs in an area on the school
grounds such that in a year or two a suitable place for teaching the stewardship
of the islands will be created.
The students working on the project shall learn about landscaping in its
entirety-the optimum use of the land available, to produce an area pleasing to
the eye, in keeping with good land husbandry principles, and providing a
cultural setting of indigenous and interesting flora and fauna. A pond would be
ideal since it broadens the possibilities for teaching-learning.
Homeowners modify the semitropical landscape to create a diverse ecosystem by
planting for shade, for privacy, for fruit and for beauty, to name a few. They
do this by controlling insects, by watering, pruning, weeding and feeding. In
the schoolyard an outdoor classroom or nature trail can be created similarly. A
representative cross section of students must be a part of the planning and care
taking in order to make the planted area their own.
Seeds, seedlings, trees in pots as large as can be obtained, either from private
persons or nurseries.
Garden tools such as picks and shovels, rakes and hoes.
Humus, compost, mulch, gut sand, manure, etc.
To be undertaken by the students under the supervision of the Committee or E.E.
1. Choose an area of the campus which can be set aside for the classroom (with
the approval of the principal). This area will necessarily be off-limits as a
play area at recess. (A playground is probably the most abused land to be found-
-a nature study area is very fragile due to the interaction of soil, plant and
animal organisms there.)
2. Draw a plan for this classroom. Pace off the dimensions of your area or use
a measuring wheel. Draw this on graph paper noting the location of the sun, the
topography of the area and any existing trees or shrubs. A low spot could serve
as a pond area in rainy weather. This would allow for the embellishment of
little fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects and plants. Indicate the placement of
the trees and plants you have in pots spacing them to allow for some growth. If
you have an eroded area try to include it in your nature area so that it can be
worked on to correct later.
3. Ask students to bring donations of plant material from home. Distribute seed
to students who want to sprout and care for them at home and return the potted
plant. The objective is to involve as broad a base of the school as possible so
that the pride will be shared by all or most of the school community.
4. Working from your diagram, start your final planting. Older students with
the help of groundskeepers can dig holes to set in trees and shrubs. The hole
dug must be a lot larger than the roots of the plant. This allows for backfill
of compost, fertilizer, sand or whatever the soil is deficient in. Water well.
A transplanted tree needs watering for the first several years after planting.
Plant in advance of expected rains so that a good root system can become
established before the next dry season.
5. Plant fast growing shrubs which you may plan to remove later when they are no
longer needed and which make good shade meanwhile. Expect to lose some of your
planting. Plan to cull out some others as they grow bigger and need more room.
6. Introduce some materials from established areas, such as rotting limbs,
interesting rocks, ground covers. Scatter seeds with interesting berries; for
example, some vines and ground covers to see if they will naturalize. Try some
orchids and bromeliads.
7. NOTE: If you have water be sure to stock small fish so vou don't hatch
8. Plan to follow through with the ongoing nature of any planting. Examples are
weeding, pruning, inspection for insects, watering and replacing of lost
material. By dividing up the work and assigning a school-wide cross section of
students who are interested in doing the work you could reduce or eliminate any
negative impact on your project.
Some suggested plant material where
your area will support it.
Mother of Cocoa
Pink Poui (Cedar)
Your Garden in the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Garden Club, 1971.