Engaging Students to Love the Natural World

April/May 2022

Celebrate Spring:
  • From the Executive Director
  • Living Classroom Opportunities
  • More Reasons Living Classroom Matters
  • Spring Lessons
  • What's Growing On
  • Reading Corner

From the Executive Director

As the Board and I start planning for next year, I am taking the opportunity to reflect on the question “What is Living Classroom doing … and why does it matter?”  Pretty strange question to be asking myself after nearly four years, I know. However, I really like my answer! 

Living Classroom is doing important work that matters now more than ever. The problem we are solving is many students are lacking an awareness and understanding of environmental issues. Living Classroom lessons and experiences increase awareness of the natural world and provide the opportunity to think about the problems we are all facing. Our lessons encourage community engagement and community science (aka citizen science). We are filling the holes in our school curriculum and providing the vital opportunity to be outside experiencing nature and working with nature.

Students are engaged in hands-on activities and actively learning about photosynthesis, ethnobotany, composting, and water conservation. They are thinking about engineering and structure when they build a bird's nest; they are doing math as they count and regroup acorn seeds. They may be discovering new foods as they sample the edible parts of a plant — their roots, stems, seeds, leaves, and flowers.

Our Program Delivery Team actively uses the 5 E’s Instruction Model to engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate, furthering their learning experiences and improving retention and learning attitudes. Living Classroom uses the garden as a tool and vehicle for learning about the natural world.

The work of Living Classroom is critical to our students’ education. Our work is vital: We engage all students in learning to love and care for our natural world.

As many of you know, school districts have limited the access to our school sites this past year in order to keep staff and students safe. I am looking forward to next year — fingers crossed — when Living Classroom can once again welcome guests to our popular Garden Tours, where you can see what we do and where we do it. Stay tuned!

Living Classroom Opportunities

Living Classroom is looking forward to having our beloved volunteer Docents back in the classroom with our Program Delivery Team next year. Our trained docents provide valuable staffing, which allows us to teach more lessons, and they are an important source of expertise, experience, and community engagement.

LIving Classroom docents are crucial to our program; some years our docents taught between 40% to 60% of our lessons in the Mountain View Whisman School District. Living Classroom conducts training for docents three times a year on three consecutive Mondays each school season (fall, winter, spring).

Docents train alongside our staff in learning our lessons as well as practical classroom management skills. After a short period of shadowing our experienced educators, docents lead lessons on their own with a schedule of their choosing. No prior teaching experience is needed — just an interest in working with children and a love of nature.

We are looking for docents to staff at Mountain View Whisman, Campbell, and St. Simon schools next year. If you are interested, please reach out to me at

We are also hiring a Classroom Educator! Please click to see additional information about that position.

More Reasons Why Living Classroom Matters
  1. Social Emotional Health

Several studies conclude that outdoor learning mitigates psychological stressors, such as anxiety and stress, while improving connectedness and prosocial behaviors (Solomonian, 2022). Some research suggests that outdoor learning helps older students maintain healthy stress (Dettweiler, et al., 2017a).

  1. Improved School Performance

According to a study of third graders given a 10-week science curriculum administered both indoors and outdoors, researchers found that on the days that students engaged in outdoor lessons resulted in half the number of interruptions than on days that they engaged in indoor lessons (Kuo, et al., 2017).

One Turkish study showed that students who participated in outdoor education for a social studies curriculum over four weeks showed significant improvement in academic performance in comparison to peers taught in the classroom (Gorkam, Nevzat, 2020).

  1. Improvement in School Attitude 

Researchers found that students engaged  in outdoor learning were more  focused and had more motivation to learn (Dettweiler, et al., 2015, Dettwiller et al. 2017a).

Spring Lessons

This spring, first grade students were introduced to the concept of photosynthesis in their “Light and Shadows'' lesson. First grade students conduct an experiment using light to see how light exposure affects plants. Fifth graders conducted an experiment to better understand chemical reactions involved in photosynthesis in their “Eyewitness to Photosynthesis” lesson. Students used a plant called Elodea, which they observe releasing oxygen as it photosynthesizes under water. 

What's Growing On

March is the time to harvest asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, citrus, kale, pea shoots, radishes, snow peas, and winter squash. 

Before planting, check on the quality of your soil. You can purchase a tool to test the pH of your soil and then add some good nitrogen by amending your soil with compost.

Now is a great time to directly sow seeds for beets, celery, collards, endive, fennel, jicama, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, potatoes, radish, spinach,  Swiss chard, and turnips.

Reading Corner

Earthworms by Claire Llewellyn is a beautifully illustrated book full of fun facts about worms! Living Classroom students  love learning about these industrious and helpful decomposers. This charming book is filled with interesting facts you may not have known about earthworms.


Living Classroom
PO Box 4121
Los Altos, CA 94024
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Living Classroom · 183 Hillview Avenue · Los Altos, CA 94022 · USA

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