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  • Melanie Smith-Bell

Outdoor Classroom Creativity

The CommunityFARE Farm to School team had the opportunity to see the range of experiences that getting outdoors offers students. We toured The Banner School’s outdoor classroom, located just north of downtown Frederick. The previous science teacher, Mrs. Amie McDaniels, established the outdoor classroom with funding provided by an ERB Foundation educational grant. She is now serving as Communication Director with the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation.

Fish pond water garden feature

Under Mrs. McDaniels’ direction students used the space for a variety of things. They completed a hydroponics project, learned to compost the waste from their lunches for use as fertilizer, established a meadow garden to learn about native plants and their support of pollinators, tended her own chickens-in-residence, and maintained a small fish pond.


Meadow garden, convertible benches for note taking and lab surfaces.

This is the third year that the outdoor classroom has been a part of the school's educational experience. Some of the previous years’ eighth grade students have enhanced the outdoor learning space to fulfill their year-long independent study capstone projects. Students have done research and calculations for planning, figured out how to do fundraising, and worked on the construction to add additional features like raised beds.


The classroom is now under the stewardship of the new science teacher, Mr. Brian Loeper. He brings his own enthusiasm to this experiential learning space. “We use it every chance we get. Any time there is a discussion about the environment we go out there.”


A seventh grade student described how they did a study of the elements of soil. "We collected soil from different parts of the outdoor classroom, put water in the samples, and let them settle. Then we saw how much was rocks and sand, and how much was humus." Fifth graders are figuring out what happens next with the coop that Mrs. McDaniels’ chickens were using as their guest house. They are researching the winter bird population and adapting it into a bird house by learning what will make them feel comfortable. What a world of possibilities! To see what is happening with FCPS students getting outdoors and learn what is happening in school gardens follow us on Facebook.


Chicken coop to be repurposed as a winter bird house

Compost bins for the lunch waste composting effort

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