Outdoor Learning Environments

July 31 – August 1, 2018
Leftbank Annex
101 N Weidler, Portland, OR 97227


Outdoor learning environments are deliberately designed spaces which provide a setting for exploration, inquiry and learning to empower environmental literacy and education in any discipline. Join A4LE for this two-day symposium where we will explore how to establish, maintain and gain community support for your projects. We will hear from experts on evidence for outdoor learning and the components, programs, teacher training and capital improvements to install Green Schoolyards.

Each day we will explore existing schoolyards and hear from districts as they walk us through their experience in their outdoor environments.

Download the Outdoor Learning Environments Presentation
Download the 2018 AIA/CES Conference Session Participation Form


Private Member: $250
Private Non-Member: $450
School District Member: $200
School District Non-Member: $250
Student: $50

Registration is closed.


DoubleTree Portland
(easy access to site via MAX train)
Hotel Lucia
Hilton Portland Downtown
Hampton Inn Pearl
Hotel Eastlund

July 31, 2018

9:30 am

The Remembering: Learning Through Village, Nature & All Generations Beyond Us
1.5 LU

Presenter: Tony Deis, Trackers Portland

Let's discuss how the principles and practice of a foraging classroom and community might naturally encourage kids to be far more capable, creative, and resilient than modern education allows. Topics include:

  • Useful qualities for mentors and teachers as guides to nature connection
  • How foraging allows the more-than-human-world (nature) to be the teacher
  • Explore environmental impacts of foraging verse Leave No Trace for outdoor classrooms
  • "Tracking and Nature Awareness" for environments when foraging is not an option, such as public parks
  • The value of community, nature, and lineage for truly connective learning

This seminar involves short descriptions and stories woven with questions from everyone present. Be ready to participate!

11:00 am
Green Schoolyards

Panel discussion on the evidence for outdoor learning and the components, programs, teacher training and capital improvements to install Green Schoolyards.

Facilitated by David Cohen, Interim Executive Director, Intertwine Alliance

Jane Tesner Kleiner, nature+play designs
Anna Garwood, Growing Gardens
Bethany Thomas, Ecology in Classrooms & Outdoors (ECO)

12:15 pm – 5:00 pm
Panelists will join Michelle Mathis, Learning Landscapes on a tour of green schools in the Portland, OR.

Learning Objectives:
  • Observe how different schools include sustainable spaces and learning opportunities on their sites.
  • Compare different approaches to play and discuss playground and alternative play area safety and design considerations.
  • Compare different approaches to vegetation (garden, restoration, shade, screening) and discuss how schools maintain these safely and use these spaces for student learning.
  • Compare different approaches to stormwater management and discuss why each was chosen and how it functions for the site.

5:00 pm
Dinner on your own

August 1, 2018

9:00 am

What Makes an Outdoor Learning Environment Work?
1.5 LU

Presenters: Vicki Moore, Karina Ruiz, Bill Gould

We will share examples of a variety of distinctive outdoor learning spaces, many that incorporate art, revealing how they can be built in a way that reflects the specific culture of the local community. We will discuss some of the recent design trends and explore how well they are working, looking particularly at why some are more likely to function as good active learning spaces for students and teachers. In particular, we will share insights about ways that compelling curriculum and community resources, such as the non-profit Living Classroom, can enhance the learning potential of these areas and increase the chances of sustaining them.

10:30 am

Blurring the Boundaries between Play and Learning in School Yard Design
1.5 LU

Presenter: Catherine Offenberg, Principal, CRJA-IBI Group

This session will examine the diverse outdoor learning environment created for a compact urban Pre-K – Grade 8 public school site in Brookline, MA. Inspired by experiential learning trends and the Town’s commitment to inclusive design that addresses diverse student needs, this project pushes the envelope beyond the traditional focus on play areas. Open space is envisioned as an integral part of the learning environment. Ms. Offenberg will share the design principles and strategies employed to extend the learning experience into the school yard, exploring opportunities for curriculum based and free exploration, study and discovery.

Learning Objectives:

  • Review social, psychological and educational benefits pursued through the design of outdoor learning environments.
  • Identify an array of design options to expand the range of outdoor activities and experiences for students.
  • Learn about the collaborative design process and discuss strategies for balancing competing stakeholder needs, to reach design consensus.
  • Examine how the relationship between the building and site create meaningful learning opportunities.

12:00 pm
School Tours
4 LU

Jennifer Halleck, Planning, Vancouver Public Schools and Jane Tesner Kleiner, nature+play designs will lead a tour of a couple of VPS schools outdoor learning environments of retrofitted campuses and will talk about the upcoming work with bond projects for new schools.

Hough Elementary School, 1900 Daniels St., downtown Vancouver
Harney Elementary School, 3212 E Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661

4:00 pm
Close the meeting


Tony Deis

Tony Deis

Tony, founder of Trackers Earth, rose-out* of high school at 14 years old. Fancying himself an autodidact, he went on to explore forest-craft, primitive skills, and tracking. Somehow he also learned how to start a business because his community needed him to. Tony believes the values and practice of a foraging family and community naturally encourage kids to be far more capable than the modern world allows.

He runs Trackers as though it were an extension of his large Italian family. Every member is responsible for creating a way of living that remembers our connection to village, the more-than-human-world (that's nature), and many generations beyond our lifetime. His hobbies include the art of animal tracking, with which he frequently invades the private lives of local American Black Bears. Plus, he appreciates hanging out with his own kids, well-known douglas fir trees, and all the abundant sword ferns of the Pacific Northwest.

*often called "dropped-out" from the other side of the looking glass