How to Build an Outdoor Classroom

An outdoor classroom is a place where you learn about the environment while it surrounds you. Sure you can learn science in it, but you can also study writings like A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, by Thoreau, or contemplate Van Gogh’s Olive Trees while you sit in a similar setting.

From designing to learning, the opportunities that building an outdoor classroom at your school grants reaches beyond students and deep into the community. It can even help teachers further develop curriculum.


  1. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 1
    Get a group of students together and decide what type of outdoor classroom you want at your school. Types include: near or in a prairie, in the school's courtyard, off trail, in a wooded area, in a green house, or any other area your school deems suitable.
  2. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 2
    Ask a teacher to mentor your outdoor classroom project. The teacher will know of any school protocols you will need to follow and will be able to facilitate contact with your school's administrators. A teacher may also have access to funding to help your outdoor classroom get started.
  3. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 3
    Begin researching outdoor classrooms. Along with researching outdoor classrooms, you should begin researching basic building techniques.
  4. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 4
    Determine your classroom's site.
  5. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 5
    Decide on how you want the classroom to look and what items you want in it.
  6. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 6
    Create a list of building materials that you’ll need and begin brainstorming ways you can gather funds to purchase the materials.
  7. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 7
    Begin to collect funds and seek donations from your local community.
  8. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 8
    Design a building plan and strategy.
  9. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 9
    Build. This is wear all your research pays off. Grab some friends, some tools, and get going.
  10. Image titled Build an Outdoor Classroom Step 10
    Maintain the outdoor classroom once it's built. The outdoor classroom needs to be treated as any other classroom in your school. Constant upkeep will allow generations of students to learn in it.


  • Get your entire school involved.

A top 10 finalist in the Student Conservation Association's Green Your School Contest, from Deerfield, Illinois comments on the role her school played in creating an outdoor classroom:

"Administrators at all levels, (departmental, building and grounds), the principal, and the Board of Education were involved in granting permission to modify the existing courtyard and approving the design plans. Building and grounds personnel arranged the delivery of building materials, supplied students with tools, and supervised the construction. Administrators in several offices oversaw the budget and wrote the checks for construction costs.

The technology office created an online sign up calendar open to all teachers and administrators. Technology staff also publicized the students’ efforts by posting pictures and stories about the outdoor classroom on the school website. Finally, the principal took 5 minutes during her opening remarks to introduce the new instructional space to the faculty on the first day of school."

  • Consider these questions prior to building:
    • Does your school have enough outdoor space to have an outdoor classroom?
    • What can be done to ensure that the outdoor classroom is a safe learning environment?
    • Where will the classroom be and how will students access it?
    • Does the site need to be prepped? If so, how?
    • How will you spread the word about your school building an outdoor classroom?


  • Building an outdoor classroom is a complex procedure that requires many minds and hands to complete. Get your local community involved. Look to local newspapers, businesses and adults for support.
  • Eisenhower stated, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything." As you research and build your outdoor classroom, your classroom will continue to evolve. To ensure that your end result is a practical classroom that beautifies your school and learning experiences, you must thoroughly plan all facets of your classroom.
  • Teamwork is essential to successfully building an outdoor classroom. Plan on having a lot of people involved - students, parents, teachers, local business owners, administrators, and more. Be prepared for a challenge because getting a diversity of people on the same page, working together is tough.

Article Info

Categories: Landscaping and Outdoor Building