Page Students Choose Outdoor Learning Day

“Fresh air makes you feel free,” said Harper Head, who said it was a refreshing and fun day. 

Owen Coppess agreed. “It’s hard to sit in the classroom when it’s so nice outside. I just want to be outside.”

So, on a bright, sunshiny warm spring day, the entire class packed up all the books, papers, pencils, and any other materials they needed, and set up class in a grassy area just outside the building. It was a reward the entire class voted on.

Sikkema explained that the class collectively receives stars for “super star” days when students work hard and don’t have behavior issues. Stars can also be taken away if they have “super oops” days. When the class collects at least 25 stars they earn a reward day.  Students brainstorm and share different ideas for the reward and then vote.

“Of all the things they had to vote on, I was impressed that they chose an outdoor learning day,” she said. “They didn’t choose more computer time or movie day or pajama day.  They wanted to be outside. I thought it was a really good idea,” said Sikkema.

There were clear ground rules laid out for the special day.  “They were still expected to do all their work and pay attention. We did our reading and math assignments just like we would have if we were inside. And they knew if they didn’t follow the rules they would have to go inside,” said Sikkema. 

“They also had to pay attention and be responsible to get their work finished. It was not just a day to run outside and play. We have field day and field trips coming up for that. We had work to do,” she said.

Students were allowed to sit with friends, in groups or wherever they liked within the outside classroom boundaries. Some brought lawn chairs, while others spread out blankets or beach towels. They sat cross-legged or lay on their stomachs as they read or worked on math problems.

“It was fun. We could take our shoes off and everything,” said Harper.

Sikkema said she was impressed with how well the students did outside. “They were a lot more easily distracted, but we just planned for it. I think having these kinds of rewards available gives students something to look forward to. I think they work hardest for something they truly want.”

Owen said there was really only one downside to the day. “The hardest part of the day was having to come back inside.”