Outdoor Classroom & Garden

  • Riverdale's school garden With seven garden beds, a circular seating area, a large covered structure with picnic table seating, a garden shed, composters, irrigation and white boards, our Outdoor Classroom and Garden (located next to the District Office, behind the covered play area) is a bountiful outdoor education area used by the whole school for studies in a variety of core subjects. Students come to plant, explore, learn and touch in myriad lessons taking place throughout the garden cycles. 

    Classes and activities you can expect to see in the Outdoor Classroom:

    • Harvesting and cooking
    • Math through irrigation design
    • Creation of an entrance garden and gate design
    • Geology
    • Composting
    • Bed cleanup, planting winter crops and cover crops, and putting to bed for the winter
    • Math (weather and water)
    • Climate and weather (building shelters)
    • Erosion (water flow)
    • Planning spring planting
    • An outdoor class offered through PTC’s Community School
    A little history:

    In 2014-15, a group of parents, students and staff worked together to extend the Preschool Garden and establish a larger Outdoor Classroom and Garden area next to the Riverdale District Office. Over the course of that school year, the 7/8 Leadership class, with help from adult volunteers, sought donations of sustainable restoration juniper wood for the garden beds and taught younger students how to build. Together, our students and parents transformed the space into a vibrant learning space. Many hands, donations and volunteers contributed to this effort. Our thanks go to all who supported and continue to support this curriculum-enhancing endeavor!  


Outdoor Learning Stories

  • Outdoor learning, and spring cleaning in the garden

    Posted by Riverdale School District on 4/12/2017

    Last month, several of our teachers and parents (pictured below) attended a symposium on expanding students’ nature experience, creative ways to sustain outdoor spaces and optimizing creative play. Following that, the Outdoor Learning Committee has now met twice and is discussing how to support teachers and students in accessing the school grounds for learning opportunities and curriculum tie-ins. We sincerely appreciate of all of the auction success and contributions made by the community toward this endeavor.

    Currently the committee needs more helping hands with small, ongoing projects and we hope you’ll consider joining us for a spring cleaning work party at 2:45 p.m. next Wednesday, April 19, in the garden area.

    The committee also has larger projects and goals for the creation of an outdoor classroom – adding fencing to preserve the garden space (shelter from deer), and potentially adding playground shade trees. Your participation on the committee is welcome, as are all helping hands for the spring cleaning event next week.

    teachers and parents attend a symposium about children and nature  Riverdale Grade School garden

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  • Studying cabbage variables

    Posted by Riverdale Grade School on 4/7/2017

    What better way to welcome the spring than to do some learning in our outdoor classroom! With the guidance of Riverdale’s Garden Specialist, Lauren Rosenstein, our 3rd graders learned about what could help a cabbage plant grow to its fullest potential. They decided to test some variables, and they will observe, measure and record plant growth during their weekly visits to the garden this spring. 

    Variables include:

    1) A control cabbage was planted all by itself with plenty of space

    2) A number of cabbages are paired up with companion plants such as potatoes or beans

    3) A couple of cabbages are planted close together

    4) Some cabbages planted in the bioswale at the side of the building (a different soil composition).   

    This is a great introduction to the class’ Structures of Life unit that will be starting soon.

    Girl planting a plant in the garden  Group of students planting in the garden  Students get ready to plant cabbage plants

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  • Outdoor lessons grow

    Posted by Riverdale Grade School on 2/6/2017

    teacher and student discuss lesson in outdoor classroom garden  teacher leads lesson with kindergartners in the outdoor classroom garden

    With our partnership with the Green Schoolhouse (thanks to last year’s auction donations), the number of lessons taking place in Riverdale’s Outdoor Classroom and Garden is growing right along with the plants and vegetables. 

    In an effort to encourage tangible and experiential learning, Green Schoolhouse director Lauren Rosenstein works closely with teachers to understand their instructional needs and help create a curriculum or activity plan that brings classes outside. So far this year, most grades have made it out to study a variety of subjects, she says, “all with natural systems, ecology and the garden as our lens. This autumn provided us with the opportunity to harvest, taste, pull out the dying plants, study decomposition, find out what will grow in the winter, investigate bugs and more.” 

    Here are some lesson highlights by grade: 

    Preschoolers used their senses to discover the space by tasting what was growing, touching the soil, smelling the plants, listening to the birds, and observing where everything is growing. They also watched their carved pumpkin decompose into soil for the plants. 

    Kindergarteners incorporated books, games, planting and tasting to better understand the garden’s dynamic cycles. They planted overwintering garlic that will take all year to grow (waiting can be hard), participated in a scavenger hunt to build vocabulary and cleared root beds to discover all of the creatures who live in them. 

    For 1st graders, Ms. Rosenstein says, “The garden has represented the unique and individual existence in each of us.” Students noted that radish seeds all look the same and hypothesized the size, shape and color they would grow to be. Yet after a month in the soil, the students found that their radishes all grew differently. “Some were pink, red, purple or white, some were round and some were long. They were all different, just like us.” 

    4th graders learned without healthy soil, there is no life. They tested samples for acidity and alkalinity, finding the liveliest soil was more acidic. Then they split into groups to study how much life exists in one tiny space. 

    5th grade science students prepared for their time at Mt. St. Helens by layering pots with alkaline materials such as lime, charcoal and sand to simulate the volcanic soil. They placed seeds in the layers and noticed the growth time was much longer than traditional soil growing. 

    6th grade science students learned about natural resources, including the importance of waste. After “sheet mulching” part of the garden by layering compost, leaves, cardboard and straw, they’ll check the temperature throughout the winter and plant a pollinator garden in the spring with the newly reinvigorated soil. 

    7th grade leadership students have tackled multiple garden challenges, from building a fence to protecting winter crops. To install hoop houses on garden beds so that lettuce, spinach and kale can grow all winter long, students researched building techniques, measured the beds and supplies, created a blueprint and used power tools to install the hoops themselves. 

    Once the weather warms, there is much to plant and more tie-ins to curriculum from math and science to art. “One of the best parts of the Outdoor Classroom, for me, is that there are so many different grades that spend time in the garden. It connects the 7th grade to the preschoolers and everyone in between,” Ms. Rosenstein says.

    young students dig up weeds in the garden  young boy holds up weed to look at it

    three girls conduct a science experiment with water and containers in the outdoor classroom  two boys examine a spider web in the outdoor classroom

    five students with clipboards sit and stand in the outdoor classroom  young girl raises hand while young boy claps during an outdoor classroom lesson

    students gather pumpkins  students use shovels to dig in the garden

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