Growing Outdoor Classrooms ~ Spring 2022

Growing Outdoor Classrooms

3-credit course through Castleton University

Taught virtually by April Zajko, M.Ed.

Dates: March 1 – May 15, 2022. There will be two synchronous meetings via Zoom, scheduled on two Saturdays for six hours each day. Dates to be announced. The remainder of the course will be at your own pace.

Times:​ Two synchronous Zoom meetings on two Saturday, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm with a lunch break

Format: Online

  1. Zoom for two synchronous meetings
  2. Self paced modules of content and submission of work

Location: Online

​Cost: $975

Course Description:

Every outdoor classroom is as unique as the school or program that designs and builds it. Whether you are starting from scratch, transforming a traditional playground into a nature-inspired play area, or expanding an existing outdoor classroom, this course will help you define and prioritize design elements for your space. Research confirms that learning outdoors promotes child development and learning in all domains – physical, cognitive, and social/emotional. By understanding the benefits of outdoor learning, participants will discover ways to share information with stakeholders as a powerful way to communicate the value of creating nature inspired learning spaces

Audience: Early Childhood Educators (PreK – 3rd grade) 

Instruction Information:

April Zajko, M.Ed. is a Licensed Early Childhood Educator and Reading Specialist. Her bachelor’s degree was earned at Delaware State University, and her master’s degree was earned at University of Virginia. Her passion for lifelong learning led her to study in-depth about place-based learning, mindfulness, holistic development, nature-inspired approach to early childhood, and creating supportive learning environments for all children.

Deadline to register: February 14, 2022

Registration steps:

  1. Fill out the registration form on the Fairbanks Museum website to hold your spot. (Registration is limited to 20 students per semester.) https://www.fairbanksmuseum.org/educate/professional-development
  2. Mail payment – Course payment of $975 is payable by check to the Fairbanks Museum. This is due 2 weeks from the time of registration. Please mail your check to: Fairbanks Museum, Attn: Karina Weiss, 1302 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819 
  3. Confirmation of registration will be emailed to you once payment is received. ​

For additional course or registration information, please contact April Zajko for more information ~ aprilzajko@gmail.com

Required Readings/Texts (not included in cost of course): Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms: Designing and Implementing Child-Centered Learning Environments by Eric Nelson, Redleaf Press 

Course Goals

  1. To explain the developmental benefits of learning in an outdoor classroom and create buy-in with stakeholders within your school or early childhood program.
  2. To develop a vision map and action plan for developing an outdoor classroom that meets the need all children.
  3. To define obstacles, develop solutions, and create a funding plan in order for the outdoor classroom to be established and thrive for years to come.
  4. Establish or expand the outdoor classroom that meets the developmental needs of young children

Course Objectives

Through participation in this class, the student will be able to:

  • Recognize the differences between an outdoor classroom and traditional playground
  • Describe the significance of nature-based education in early childhood (preschool through 3rd grade) and name the developmental benefits from learning in an outdoor classroom.
  • Demonstrate ways to share information with stakeholders about outdoor classrooms as a way to communicate the value of creating nature inspired learning spaces
  • Explore ways to get buy-in from stakeholders and discuss ways to assemble in inner circle of supporters 
  • Design a vision map of your outdoor classroom with multiple phases of implementation
  • Research ways to secure funding to build or expand outdoor classrooms 
  • Develop an action plan for creating an outdoor classroom based on your vision and research.