SVdP Outdoor Learning Lab
This year’s paddle raiser presents a completely new opportunity for our school and for our children’s learning environment.
The outdoor lab presents an opportunity for active learning – the kind of learning that research says shapes the kind of work going on in the brain. Our teachers are fantastic and find amazing ways to teach lessons with active aspects, but this entire classroom is designed for children’s learning activities. We plan to begin with some basic elements that easily coexist in an ecosystem: a butterfly garden with plants that allow chrysalises to hatch as well as those that attract butterflies and possibly hummingbirds. There is an international program to tag monarch butterflies when they hatch, and enter the information into a database. When the butterfly is found, often in Florida or in Mexico, their location can again be logged into the database. The children would be contributing data to real research. Several garden beds for flowers, vegetables and herbs provide opportunities at every grade level for cross-curricular STEM learning. A green house enables us to move hydroponics experiments to the outdoors as well as to start seasons earlier and enjoy them longer into the fall. The delight of the project is to hatch chicks and to raise chickens, collecting and selling free-range eggs from cage free chickens.
We will not exhaust the amount of learning projects that can happen at each grade level. This little ecosystem and outdoor learning lab offers different possibilities each year with children being able to design some of their own experiments.
But deeper than the STEM learning, or even the outdoor/active learning that is so good for our children, this project is rooted in the heart of our church. The Church has called for a New Evangelization. The question the New Evangelization seeks to answer is: What is it that will attract modern men and women to God? No longer is the modern person attracted to the stoic face of a holy card from the 1950’s. We know and believe that God is the ultimate fulfillment of all our desires, so how do we rediscover that attraction that will open us toward all that is transcendent? The last three popes – John Paul II, Benedict 16, and now Francis 1 – have all pointed to a rediscovery of ecology and depth of knowledge of the world as God designed it. Ecosystems that work together, life cycles that can be not just learned but experienced, and therefore loved with deep delight, form the mind and heart, and open it toward God, even if God’s name is never mentioned in the lesson. Seeing the brilliance of design opens us to the knowledge of a designer – a wise designer with a marvelous sense of humor! We are serious about education and so the aims of this project are to better develop the intellect of every child! But we are also serious about the role wonder and delight being a natural part of education, and so the aims of this project are to instill wonder at the world and delight at being part of something so well-designed.
If you would like to view the proposed drawings and a video about our Outdoor Learning Lab; please click on the links below for more information:
- Outdoor Learning Lab 3-D Drawing
- Outdoor Learning Lab Plan View
- Video: Why Does SDvP Need an Outdoor Learning Lab?