Middle School Outdoor Classroom
Outdoor Classroom at Willamette Valley Middle School assist in building design developed by PDC students at Pacific University. Each year’s design is for a different school to be built by the following year’s PDC students. Design includes barrel oven, biochar kiln, biogas generator, chalkboard, seating, sink, cabinets, garden beds, waterwheel, and pond.
Design drawing, narrative, budget, timeline
Neil Armstrong Outdoor Classroom: 1777 Mountain View Lane Forest Grove, OR 97116
Concept: An outdoor learning environment for 7th and 8th graders that provides hands-on opportunities for learning permaculture ethics, principles, and processes, as represented by the Oregon Department of Education Environmental Literacy Strands:
- Systems Thinking
- Physical, Living, and Human Systems
- Interconnectedness of People and the Environment
- Personal and Civic Responsibility
- Investigate, Plan and Create a Sustainable Future
Context: The plan represents a collaboration between several different entities:
Terry O’Day is an activist artist in Forest Grove. Her practice considers the intersection of art, education, and sustainability and she has chosen Permaculture Design as the ideal framework for integrating these areas. While school gardens are the most visible outcome of her practice, they are essentially emergent properties of her work with invisible structures. Through the years, she has tweaked and nudged a variety of systems to foster the development of an interconnected infrastructure that supports environmental literacy for learners of all ages in Forest Grove.
Pacific University – O’Day offers a PDC course through the Art Department as part of the new design program she helped to initiate. This course fulfills both the sustainability and civic engagement requirements for undergraduate students. Students in the course work with K-12 schools to design outdoor learning environments in a rolling fashion; they help to build the design produced by the class in the year previous while also producing a new design at a different school for the class to install in the year following.
EdenAcres Environmental Education – Started by O’Day and Fallon Harris (one of O’Day’s former students), EA is a local non-profit that supports outdoor learning in the Forest Grove School District through its School Garden Coordinator position. The garden coordinator provides professional development for teachers interested in using outdoor classrooms and coordinates volunteers working in school gardens.
Neil Armstrong Middle School – NAMS students are 7th and 8th graders who have participated in the design process through one of their instructors, Colin Hawkins. Hawkins was interested in getting his students outdoors and was inspired to start a project as a result of his participation in the EA Garden Educator professional development meetings.
Impact Most directly affected will be the 832 students in the school, 58% of whom qualify for the free lunch program. The outdoor classroom will enrich their learning environment and instill the permaculture values at a young age. The garden will also provide a model for outdoor learning in the Forest Grove School District.
o Diverse student groups of 8-35 o Academic achievement for 7th-8th grade learning goals in all disciplines o Environmental Literacy, as defined by the Oregon Department of Education EL plan
- Provide opportunities for:
o Learning about food, water, and energy systems o Community and team-building
o Observing and interacting with nature o Physical activities outdoors o Crowing materials for projects (such as fibers, dye, wood) o Storage of tools and equipment
Primary Design Elements:
- Biochar cone kiln
- Biogas generator
- Garden beds
- Multiple gathering areas
- Rainwater-powered waterwheel
Timeline Fall 2020
- O’Day’s PDC lays out the garden structure by sheet mulching pathways and garden beds, using tree service wood chips and city leaf collection materials
- NAMS and Pacific partner to offer a natural building course that connects college with middle students through building a barrel oven and shelter
- Harris’s Designing Curriculum for Outdoor Classrooms students work with NAMS teachers to develop custom curriculum that capitalizes on the developing outdoor learning environment
- O’Day, volunteers, and Pacific work-study students build garden beds and install plant material
Fall 2021 – Spring 2022
- Remaining elements are built and installed by students, faculty, and community volunteers
Budget School gardens in Forest Grove are supported by a variety of local funders. Over the past 3 years, EA and O’Day have raised nearly $60,000 to install outdoor classrooms in the district. Fundraising efforts will continue until we have a garden classroom at every school in the district.
Tables – $1000 Barrel Oven, roof structure, and instructor for class – $7500 Biogas generator – $700 Chalkboard and seating – $600 Garden beds $1100 Biochar cone kiln and seating $1400 Plant material $1200 Sink and cabinets $800 Waterwheel and pond $800 Total: $15,100
Terry O’Day is an activist artist in Forest Grove. Her practice considers the intersection of art, education, and sustainability and she has chosen Permaculture Design as the ideal framework for integrating these areas. Through the years, she has tweaked and nudged a variety of systems to foster the development of an interconnected infrastructure that supports environmental literacy for learners of all ages in Forest Grove.
O’Day’s background is in the crafts and she teaches ceramics at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. During the 13 years she has lived in Forest Grove, she has co-founded a sustainability-themed K-12 charter school, worked in various capacities within the college to develop admistrative structures, programming and courses that support education for sustainability at the college level and founded a permaculture demonstration project to support education for sustainability at all age levels.
O’Day says, “Once I began teaching I was able to see my work in a different context than I had when I was a working artist. Given the magnitude of the problems we face, the work I had been doing began to seem small, self-cetered and irrelevant. I questioned both the venue and format of my work. I thought a lot about the methods and goals of education and whether these were appropriate in light of the urgent need for change.
“In my search for understanding, I was heavily influened by the writings of Joseph Beuys who described a form of artmaking that he called social sculpture. Beuys says, ‘Every human being is an artist…called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives.'”
O’Day believes that an introductory permaculture course should be a core requirement for every student who enters college, but looks forward to the day when there won’t be a need for this because students will be learning permaculture from the first moment they step into a kindergarten class.