Quality Service Learning in the Outdoor Classroom
Quality service-learning experiences are valuable for students and educators, as well as for community partners who are directly participating in their local service project. Quality service learning in schools motivates the sharing of individual skill sets, hands-on experiences while exercising the collaborative process for a multi-partner project to be lifted off the ground. Student-led initiatives brings forth opportunities for success in entrepreneurship, community building and development; especially when participants share intentions that focus on reaching out to support regenerative relationships between the school and their extended community.
Project example of service learning in the outdoor classroom:
A community justice not for profit organization partners with an elementary school to assist in establishing the design of an outdoor classroom’s Peace Circle Garden. The Peace Garden is planted in a circle to set up the outdoor space forthe practice of restorative communication (Knowledge Sharing Circles) and conflict management in the outdoor classroom. Everyone in the school participated in the design of this project alongside the participation of restorative communication facilitators of the partner organization. Throughout the design process; the students, teachers and administrators exercised healthy communication practices -inclusion, active listening, suspend judgement, empathy while passing the talking piece- in the restorative communication circle process. Each teacher and student's voice was heard (k to 6) and had an integral part in the establishment of the ‘peace garden' outdoor classroom design.
Another example of a rural school community service learning project:
The engagement of students and teachers as gardeners to diversify their playground’s outdoor classroom by planting trees, shrubs and native/common perennials. The school community planted mandala designs of medicinal/edible perennials located in the cardinal directions on their playground outdoor learning space. The school community hosted a planting day-’Planting for the Future’- whichattracted multiple members of the community to make it a nature connected communityevent. UCDSB representatives, Algonquin College ECE Program, TD Bank personnel, Community Food Centre representatives from 'The Table', parents, students, teachers, local permaculturalists/ horticulturalists and community justice restorative communication facilitators, worked together to connect and generate relationships to advance the school’s restorative culture in the outdoor garden classroom. The community was honoured to have a local Aneshinaabe Elder present to inaugurate the event in an opening ceremony on unceded land. Introducing multiple native and common plants into the playground’s perennial gardens revealed how plant communities (like human communities) are strengthened when the element of diversity is present.