Temple University Ambler Teacher Workshop Spotlights Outdoor Classroom Design

Temple University Ambler Teacher Workshop Spotlights Outdoor Classroom Design

Teachers are invited to get hands-on in developing outdoor classrooms for their students at Temple University Ambler this summer.

The Office of Non-Credit and Continuing Education will be offering a one-week Education for Sustainability (EFS) workshop that provides K through 12 educators with the tools to integrate the environment into their existing curriculum.

“One of the goals of this new program is to provide another venue for children to connect to the planet. There is a lot of evidence supporting how using the environment as an integrating context for the curriculum increases academic performance, particularly critical thinking skills,” said Charlene Briggs, an Adjunct Instructor in Temple University’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, in the Tyler School of Art Division of Architecture and Environmental Design. “Outdoor classrooms offer teachers a venue to deepen relationships with nature, by using it as a curriculum tool.”

The Education for Sustainability workshop, Outdoor Classroom Design and Use: Integrating the Environment Into the K-12 Classroom, will be held from July 25 through July 29, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Temple University Ambler. The cost of the week-long program is $249. Act 48 Credits are available.

Outdoor Classroom Design and Use is a comprehensive workshop where educators design and build an outdoor classroom on-site as well as create lesson plans to weave the environment into the existing curriculum,” said Briggs, an environmental scientist and educator with 25 years of field experience promoting ecological literacy and sustainable landscapes. “Participants will explore native gardens in the Ambler Arboretum; learn to identify and grow pollinator and host plants; visit the Temple bluebird trail and learn how to enhance habitat for songbirds; visit crop and research gardens; and learn outdoor classroom development skills.”

Through the workshop, educators will also develop an understanding of the methods for using outdoor classrooms and their benefits “in light of outcomes, learning objectives, assessments, state education standards and academic research,” Briggs said.

“The program is fully interactive. They will build a model outdoor classroom in the campus research garden,” she said. “They will also learn how to combine field techniques that augment test-based learning with environment based-inclusion curriculum to address accommodations.”

According to Briggs, the workshop is an outgrowth of her graduate work studying, hands-on, outdoor, place-based education (H.O.P.E. for Ecological Literacy) and her work with the Green Schools National Network (GSNN).

“The GSNN has defined and continues to refine the definition of ‘green’ schools in terms of facilities, food, environment-based curriculum and Education for Sustainability (EFS),” she said. “EFS is a process of discovery through which students embrace a lifetime of creative investigation and an existence based on respect for the intricate web of life. Outdoor classrooms are a means to that end as they facilitate relationship with nature and a venue for development of critical thinking skills needed to create a sustainable world.”

School districts throughout the United States are developing sustainability plans to integrate Education for Sustainability into their districts. Briggs is part of two subcommittees for the Philadelphia School District’s sustainability plan, known as GreenFutures.

According to Briggs, Temple Ambler is “uniquely and perfectly poised in terms of facilities and expertise to facilitate the EFS initiative.” The workshop will also provide mentoring opportunities for Temple University students, she added.

“Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students will share their design and botanical skills and Tyler School of Art students will facilitate nature journal design,” she said. “Teachers will leave our program with the experience, skills, resources and a network of professionals for continuing support as they evolve sustainability initiatives at their schools. It is very exciting to be part of this international evolution in sustainability.”

For additional information, about the Outdoor Classroom Design and Use workshop,  contact Charlene Briggs  at charlene.briggs@temple.edu or Rhonda Geyer, Director of Non-Credit Programs at Temple University Ambler, Fort Washington and Center City at rgeyer@temple.edu or 267-468-8504.

Additional information about this and other courses and programs offered by the Office of Non-Credit and Continuing Education may be found by visiting noncredit.temple.edu/nce.