Outdoor Classroom

Since its launch in 2006, the Outdoor Classroom has become a unique and important part of the Junior School. Each class spends 15 to 20 hours per year learning environmental education, along with many hours at recess and during co-curricular activities. Lessons use open exploration, structured observation, games, gardening, crafts and group or individual experiences to develop an appreciation for the natural world.

In the first decade of the Outdoor Classroom, each class designed and maintained a special garden designed to provide habitat for wildlife and created with native flower and shrub species. The Grade 5 students added to and nurtured the garden kept by former Junior School principal Charles Tottenham, now called the Rainbow Garden. The Grade 6 students worked the soil for the tomatoes they grow annually as part of Let’s Talk Science’s Tomatosphere Project. As part of their ecosystem studies, Grade 7 East sustained a Butterfly Meadow, while Grade 7 West cared for a Wildlife Meadow. The Grade 8 students created a Water Garden which provides habitat for plants, invertebrates, amphibians and birds. These gardens were “given back to nature” in a ceremony celebrating ten years of stewardship. Their many plants are now able to care for themselves.

Now, well into the second decade of the Outdoor Classroom, each class works its own vegetable garden. Students choose their crop choices in the late winter and design their plot, then start the seeds indoors after the March Break. The vegetables and flowers are planted out in the spring and over the summer months, local TCS families volunteer to keep the gardens watered and tended, so that there is a bountiful harvest in late September after we’ve all returned.

Every fall, students take part in a “Giving of the Gardens” ceremony where responsibility for each section of the Outdoor Classroom is handed down from one class to the next. The event marks the new classes taking on the stewardship for their grade’s garden for one year. The harvest is celebrated and then taken to Osler Hall to be enjoyed by the whole school community as soups, sauces and salads.

Throughout the school year, students are able to enjoy learning about the natural world both as part of the Junior School curriculum and through their own exploration of this special facility.