An outdoor classroom enjoyed by students is now certified, meaning that the space is fully integrated into the school curriculum.
Students at Prattville Intermediate School actually have instruction in a certified classroom with no desks, just a lot of grass. The outdoor classroom has existed since 2011 in an open area between two classrooms. The space was recently certified by the Alabama Wildlife Federation as an Alabama Outdoor Classroom .
A deck with a white board and tables seats about 30 students amid a wildlife habitat, bird feeders, a butterfly garden, and raised garden beds. Teachers use a sign up sheet to use the area, much like they sign up with a computer lab. Students study everything in the outdoor classroom, from math lessons to writing and reading poetry. They are also very excited about the crops that are produced in the garden, says sixth grade teacher Teresa Calhoun.
"They have grown strawberries and blackberries and tomatoes, which were provided to the lunchroom to make fried green tomatoes," Calhoun said.
Calhoun has a special view of the garden, as her classroom is the only one with a direct entrance to the outdoor area. "The kids get excited when they know they are coming outside," she said. "I think being outdoors has kept them interested."
Principal Angela Landry said the area recently was certified by the Alabama Wildlife Federation as an Alabama Outdoor Classroom .
"The certification means we have fully initiated our outdoor classroom into the school and the curriculum," Landry said.
Leading a school of more than 600 fifth- and sixth-graders, Landry said keeping the students motivated was one of the goals at the beginning of the planning process. In 2009, teachers attended a workshop at the Alabama Wildlife Federation and became interested in implementing the outdoor classroom at Prattville Intermediate.