Educating the whole child goes beyond books at Norfolk Collegiate. We work hard to create spaces, experiences and a curriculum that challenge our students to think beyond themselves, while also organically creating life skills to serve them as they journey to the middle and upper school and then to college and beyond.
The Outdoor Learning Lab at our lower school is not only a magical, unique space; it’s also another innovative way in which we engage our students and enhance learning across the curriculum. The student-driven, farm-to-table project was made possible due to a generous donation from parents Taylor ’00 and Emily Franklin.
Once the interior courtyard for the lower school, the space was converted in 2016 into a living outdoor lab with four raised vegetable beds, a flower garden, a greenhouse and a chicken coop with five Buff Orpington hens. In 2018, an educational koi pond was added to the space thanks to the generosity of parents Brian and Amy Clements.
Faculty extend classroom lessons outdoors and bring their subject matter to life by providing students with the opportunity to study in a non-traditional environment and to participate in meaningful experiences while planting, maintaining and harvesting the crops.
“There is no better learning than organic learning that allows students to spark their natural curiosity and then immediately learn from it,” said Science Teacher Melissa Economou. “As educators, we are fostering that curiosity. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be given this amazing outdoor area for scientific discovery alongside all of my favorite young scientists.”
About the Outdoor Learning Lab
The space was transformed over a few months in the spring of 2016. Lower School Science Teacher Melissa Economou led the charge and brainstormed, planned and measured with students to bring the project to fruition. Thanks to the collaborative efforts and the muscle of dedicated faculty and staff and volunteers, a concept was developed for the innovative outdoor space.
“Students were presented with the idea of doing something with the courtyard space that would allow all students the ability to learn and participate,” said Economou. “They generated multiple ideas and then researched the viability and costs associated with each.”