by Jane Ford, QUBS SWEP Outreach and Stewardship Intern
In April 2022, the Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre (ELEEC) welcomed the first visitors to the outdoor classroom for a lesson about limnology. Since then, the recently built outdoor classroom has been a focal point of ELEEC’s environmental programming, allowing students and visitors to safely gather outdoors and learn together.
Built in the Fall of 2021 with funding from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, the outdoor classroom has more than doubled the teaching space of Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre. By adding 68 additional seats, the outdoor classroom creates an engaging venue for learning while immersed in the 400+ hectares of ELEEC’s property. The classroom’s seating and presentation stage is enhanced by six double-sided chalkboards, which facilitate group work and breakout sessions.
As one of the Outreach and Stewardship Interns this summer, I had the chance to use the presentation platform and display screen during the free, weekly summer public Family Night events and regular ELEEC programming. The space also served as a home-base for expert-led biology lessons each week at Eco-Adventure camp, where campers aged 8-13 interactively learned about topics like beekeeping and mammal adaptations. My favourite feature of the new classroom? Even after wet weather, guests (and presenters!) stay comfortable and dry on the classroom’s waterproof seat cushions, which are brought out after rain!
In its inaugural summer, the outdoor classroom was enjoyed by students, campers, community groups, and members of the public alike. With the success of this project, ELEEC hopes that this new educational space and its supporting Outdoor Classroom Teacher Toolkit can be enjoyed for many years to come and will inspire educators to create outdoor learning spaces in their respective school yards!