Last month, the Leave No Child Inside Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati held a contest to collect success stories about how local schools are using their outdoor environments as a teaching tool. Entries ranged from school gardens to field studies to playscapes, but all were amazing examples of the effective use of outdoor spaces. Using criteria such as student involvement, enthusiasm and variety of learning opportunities, we have selected two winners: the Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies (AMIS), a Cincinnati Public Schools magnet school located near Roselawn, and Cincinnati Country Day School in Indian Hill.
AMIS has embraced the garden beds on campus as a calming learning environment. In addition to using the gardens for traditional lessons about plants and lifecycles, the school reinforces the school’s bilingual mission with plant identification signage in both Spanish and English. Debbie Lutkenhoff of Talbert House, a school partner, says “The students ask almost daily if they can go into the garden and when they can start planting things. And, it has been fulfilling to have school staff talk about the beauty of the garden, and how peaceful it is to wander about and destress”.
Cincinnati Country Day School is conducting a year-long 7th grade project which uses a section of their campus as a learning laboratory for ecological studies. It is a stellar example of how outdoor spaces can provide learning experiences that develop critical thinking and leadership skills while incorporating a multitude of academic subjects including math and science. Using transects and sweep nets, the students measured the diversity index of plants, insects and soil invertebrates. They used that data to develop a plan to improve the biodiversity of the area, and shared their learning with the students in the Early Childhood Center, who went on to sow a native songbird and butterfly mix behind the Center. They also plan to present their findings and land management recommendations to the school administration.
Congratulations to both schools for giving students the opportunity to learn in an environment that nurtures their physical, mental, emotional and social health! And thanks to all of the schools who submitted their stories – we will feature their work in future blog posts.