Outdoor Education

IGNITE offers Tillman an important educational opportunity to fully embrace the benefits and opportunities of outdoor learning. The campus is large, and the components currently installed--from a veggie garden with chickens to a 3/4 acre prairie planting--will allow teachers and students to explore a wide variety of topics in the schoolyard. Plus, the IGNITE space complements the culture of the school which already embraces service-learning and project-based learning. 


Tillman Elementary's Principal, Maria Stobbe, explains why she is an advocate for outdoor education and why she is so excited about the IGNITE project to transform the school's backyard. 


We know that when students go outside to learn:

  • Academic achievement goes up
  • Behavior problems decrease
  • Student-centered projects emerge organically, and teachers can use these projects to integrate curriculum from multiple disciplines
  • Students develop a sense of connection to the natural world, and realize their potential to be land stewards
  • Students and teachers are more excited to come to school and feel more hopeful about the future


The possibilities for curricular connections and community engagement truly are endless, but here are a few examples:

  • Citizen science opportunities abound, and offer students real-world studies in which to participate and develop foundational science skills like observation and data collection. From Monarch Watch to the Lost Ladybug Project, citizen science programs empower kids to be part of researching and finding solutions to local environmental issues.
  • Growing food is an important skill that children can learn in a school garden, and the curricular connections go way beyond nutrition education. Math arrays can be applied with the use of square foot gardening. Social studies and language arts can be combined as students debate the merits of donating school-grown produce to a food pantry vs. serving it in the school cafeteria. To make the abstract science concept of the "independent variable" concrete to students, conduct an experiment to compare veggies grown in soil that is amended with compost to soil that is left alone.
  • Using the schoolyard as a context to integrate multiple subject areas, in effect, allows teachers to "buy back" time within their busy and heavily-mandated schedules. This gives teachers more autonomy to be creative and leaves them feeling more fulfilled in their profession.