Outdoor lessons at Accokeek Academy

By Sara Campbell, Outreach Coordinator

Through our Schoolyards as Classrooms Project, the Alice Ferguson Foundation partners with local schools to use their schoolyards as outside classrooms.  As the coordinator for this project, I work with teachers at several local schools to get students outside and engage them in the topics they are currently learning in the classroom.  The activities and lessons are tailored to fit a school’s needs, interests, and goals while utilizing resources available at the school and meeting each teacher’s standards and curriculum needs.  The big goal is to get kids engaged and learning outside.

In December, I was a part of several great outdoor lessons at Accokeek Academy! One of the lessons was with the 3rd grade students in which we used compasses and anemometers to investigate wind speed and wind direction outside in the schoolyard.  I was very impressed with how engaged and excited the students were with the lessons.  As the students became more familiar with how to use the compass, they began expanding the lesson to investigate the direction of the sun, the school building, and other nearby objects.  Even though there wasn’t much wind that day, the students found creative ways to test the anemometer, like running down the hill to take wind speed readings.

The students also made connections between our outside lesson and their classroom lessons on weather.  We discussed the types of clouds, making weather predictions based on the types of clouds observed, how clouds form, and how a compass works.  They were able to use what they learned in the classroom and apply it to our outside lesson (with a real world application), which provided their teacher with a way to informally assess the progress of each student.  After the lesson, their teacher remarked on how engaged the students were during our outside lesson and that it sparked an interest in the students to learn more about weather, the tools that meteorologists use, and how these tools are made.

It was a very fun day and I look forward to our next lessons outside using the schoolyard as our classroom!