Students at Lamar Middle School are taking learning outside this year in the campus’s very own Outdoor Learning Center (OLC). While the OLC’s official opening will be this fall, it has been a passion project for the entire campus over the past months and years. Savannah Flowers, Lamar’s Digital Learning Coach, started working to reinvent the school’s courtyard over two years ago.
At the time, Flowers was a science teacher with a classroom that overlooked the then rarely-used courtyard. But she had a vision of transforming the unused space into a functional, hands-on learning environment for all Lamar students.
“My intention was to create an environment where my students could view the concepts we were learning in action,” says Flowers. “For example, they could see insects interacting with plants. We could take our iPads and be nature photographers and bloggers for the day. We could watch how plant roots grew differently based on water consumption and sunlight.”
With the help of her fellow Lamar teachers and administrators, Flowers raised several hundred dollars to aid in the transformation of the outdoor space. With the money they raised, new grass, permanent garden beds and a full set of tables were added to the budding OLC. This past spring several students signed up for a volunteer watering and pruning schedule to keep the garden beautiful.
This school year Flowers plans to work with students to prune, harvest and grow the OLC into a sanctuary for all learners. In addition to the flowers already planted, she hopes to create spaces to foster learning experiences specifically for special education students.
“This year we hope to create a vegetable garden,” says Flowers. “Our goal is to have vegetables and herbs to create a ‘touch and see’ garden where our LIFE students can interact with the plants.”
Most recently, Flowers has been hard at work with Lamar’s Dean of Students, April Richmond, to prepare the OLC for its official debut with all students returning to campus. For Principal Eric Ogle, the efforts of Flowers and Richmond are a reflection of Lamar’s spirit.
“A vital component of our mission at Lamar is to cultivate conditions in which all students learn at high levels, and our vision is for all students to learn, grow and belong to opportunities larger than themselves,” says Ogle. “An Outdoor Learning Center will provide the conditions and opportunities for students to engage in authentic learning, and contribute to a worthwhile cause.”