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District News - September 28, 2021

Fred Fifer Middle School Teachers Experience Outdoor Spaces

Staff Given Hands-On Training for New Outdoor Learning Options

                                                                                                                                  During a district-wide teacher in-service day on Friday, September 24, teachers at Fred Fifer III Middle School in Camden were trained in how to take advantage of three new outdoor learning spaces on the school campus. The professional development effort was coordinated by Todd Klawinski, Environmental Education Specialist for the District.  


The in-person training of the middle school teachers is a benefit of the collaborative effort between the Caesar Rodney School District and its community grant partners - the Stroud Water Research Center, Delaware Nature Society, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Delaware Forest Service and local artist/muralist John Donato - who together administer the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s “Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund” which is a two-year federal grant that was awarded to the CR District in 2020.  


Fifer Middle School teachers experienced the three unique outdoor learning spaces one at a time with training from the district’s grant partners.  The training included these details: 


The Station 1 experience was hosted by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Delaware Nature Society, and the Delaware Forest Service. It highlighted the native habitat component of the land stewardship program, including the planting of several native tree and shrub species, and an overview of the planned community gardens project.  Participants also viewed and discussed the newly designed Plan-o-Gram, which is a graphic plan that shows the future direction of developing outdoor learning spaces at the Middle School campus. 


Station 2 was hosted by the Stroud Water Research Center, and highlighted a unique giant outdoor stream table and one of artist John Donato’s murals at the base of a parking lot storm drain. Teachers were introduced to how to use the stream table for what they already teach across their curriculum and fun ways to use the interactive watershed mural depicting both the St. Jones River watershed and the Murderkill River watershed. 


Hosted by artist John Donato, Fifer Middle Art teacher Elisabeth Craster and Todd Klawinski, Station 3 is located just outside of the Middle School courtyard in what is now called the "Notice & Wonder Amphitheater".  The newly renovated space was designed to host lessons in any capacity.  With a targeted water theme, this space offers a broad approach to teaching options by identifying eight stakeholder groups as ‘water users’. The game-board-like mural was designed to evolve over time as staff are able to get outdoors with students more often during the school year.


The three newly created outdoor learning stations at Fifer Middle School are NOT meant to be focused on any single subject such as science or geography. Instead these outdoor learning spaces are adaptable to all school subjects.  Outdoor learning spaces can enhance any curriculum and the goals of educators come in many forms.  The purpose of this training day was to emphasis that outdoor spaces are as valuable as indoor learning spaces.