Saxe Outdoor Learning Project
“Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep,
intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development.”
Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong
Natural Learning, Creating Environments forRediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching
A silver, or in this case green, lining of the covid pandemic has been a newly rediscovered desire among much of the public to spend time outdoors exploring nature.
Saxe Middle School is considering new ways to enhance the untapped potential of our campus’ diverse green spaces. There is a significant amount of terrain available for use, and it is brimming with potential for development. Teachers are escaping the confinement of the indoors by bringing learning into outdoor spaces. The school’s five courtyards, as well as the grass verges on the exterior of the buildings, are now serving as impromptu venues for outdoor class meetings.
However, these spaces have yet to realize their full potential. Late last school year, the Saxe PTC and administration started working with a landscape and civil engineering firm, Conte & Conte, to explore one of our most underutilized campus resources - the great outdoors. Teachers, students and staff have all chimed in with suggestions on how areas might be used and incorporated into our campus life. The goal is to create a master design that looks in a holistic way at the entire property under consideration.
Some preliminary ideas are presented here with the intention of opening a dialogue and fostering community interest and investment in bringing the concept to fruition.
By creating a landscape master plan, the school can structure the improvements over time, in phases as logistics and budget allow. Certain components lend themselves to planning and execution in the short term, while others may be deferred for future stages.
To start organizing each outdoor ‘room,’ the underlying themes could include:
- A garden for exploration, with features focusing on STEM subjects such as green technology, the hydroponics, aquaponics, and mathematical elements, such as golden mean, and include places to engage in fun pastimes including chess and encrypted puzzles and geocaching,
- A literary garden, a quiet oasis with poet’s corner, author’s/storytellers’ seat, and plenty of comfortable, cozy seating options to enjoy reading or listening, surrounded by the landscape
- An arts garden, creating a natural amphitheater for performing and visual arts, a stage al fresco, visual interests to inspire perhaps plein-air painting, sculpture garden and outdoor gallery.
- A sensory garden, with features that support mindfulness as well as therapeutic features for improving proprioception, such as pendulum swings, steppingstones, and other sensory stimulating elements with light, color, sound- rain chains, texture, and the plethora of scents in a garden, as well as sheltered seating- spaces for students to self regulate.
- A retreat garden, a place to immerse oneself in a rich tapestry of vegetation, paths meander and seating to rest and reflect
- A plaza garden, space to play, dine, connect and engage with others
This landscaping aims to go beyond the merely beautiful. Throughout the campus, carefully considered indigenous plants purposefully create spaces for classes to meet and thrive together. Outside.
We’re thrilled to share a few images that show some concepts to illustrate some of these early ideas. We look forward to sharing updates and progress over the coming months as the master plan takes shape. We hope you’re as excited about the project as we are, and if so, please consider donating to the Celebrate Saxe campaign today: https://www.saxeptc.org/celebrate_saxe.