A Beautiful Place for an Outdoor Classroom Where Project-Based Learning Thrives
Kathy Greene and Robbie Saal spend several hours each week with their Kindergarten students exploring, working, and playing in their outdoor classroom named Turtle Town. When the children first visited this beautiful outdoor space, they asked, “Why is the classroom called Turtle Town?” Mrs. Saal then shared with the class a piece of Renbrook history. Many years ago, when a Beginning School class was working in this outdoor space, they found a box turtle. They had fun imagining turtles living there and decided to name the space Turtle Town.
Kindergarten classes are currently studying the theme, “Where do I live?” The exploration of this topic began with a reading of Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney, which helped the children begin to visualize where they live spanning from their bedroom to their home, street, town, state, and country. As towns, streets, and houses were discussed the class decided to construct a real Turtle Town in their outdoor classroom.
Students began by making their own turtles using river rocks for the bodies and adding modeling clay for the legs, heads, and tails. Markers and wiggly eyes were added as final touches. Once the turtles were complete, the children carried their turtles to the outdoor classroom and carefully selected just the right spot to build houses.
Both fiction and informational text were read during literacy time as an inspiration for construction. The children talked about spaces in their own houses and discussed neighborhood signs, street signs, and house numbers. Writer’s Workshop activities included recognizing environmental print and learning how to label objects in the environment. Following these lessons, the students made labels and house numbers for their turtle houses which they added to the outdoor classroom. The class will continue to add to Turtle Town as the year progresses.