Bringing the Outdoors Inside Milton’s Curriculum



The physical environment of a school provides the foundations for learning and social interaction among students and school staff. With three different floors divided among several different hallways and classrooms — Milton is fortunate to have a first-class school building to foster its learning community. Yet often overlooked is the other half of Milton’s property: its outdoor campus space. Milton has a large expanse of outdoor space, such as the shady, tree-framed nooks separating each of its hallways, many of these locations complete with amenities such as park benches and picnic tables.

However, in lieu of increasing school regulations, the school currently does not make use of many of these resources. Typically, students are not permitted to leave the school building during the school day for any unauthorized reason. As such, the majority of the student body with full schedules are expected to stay indoors throughout the seven-hour school day. However, given Milton’s natural outside resources, there are several reasons to incorporate the outside campus space alongside the indoor learning environment. One such incentive lies in the concept of outdoor classrooms.

As described by its name, outdoor classrooms are classes that are held outside on school grounds rather than traditional indoor classrooms. According to The Outdoor Classroom Project, an initiative of the Child Education Center (CEC), providing students with a more natural learning environment benefits students in numerous ways, encouraging physical activity as well as social engagement and creative expression.

Outdoor classrooms have several positive characteristics that make these classrooms practical possibilities at Milton. For example, the versatility of outdoor classrooms make them ideal settings for both traditional lectures and quiet study sessions while also providing a space for more active and involved activities such as games, presentations or other class activities.

Several students have displayed interest towards the idea of outdoor learning. “It’s a nice change of scenery,” says Priyanka Akavaram, a senior at Milton. “It provides students with a change to literally and figuratively get a breath of fresh air.” While Akavaram says that she is “relatively okay with current student regulations,” she admits she would enjoy some extensions to the current student privileges such as learning through outdoor classrooms, as such new environments would help “stimulate our mind[s] more than a routine boring setting.” Kriti Madhusudan, a Milton freshman, says she feels “as though Milton’s grounds are being used, though maybe not enough.” Like Akavaram, she too hopes that the school would allow for “more outdoor educational activities to take place,” in order to lend themselves to greater “varied ways of thinking and learning.”

The several benefits that have been observed of outdoor classrooms – such as increases in student physical activity, greater exposure to nature-related science and math elements (which can peak interest in these fields) and decreased possibility for diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and ADHD — make for overall healthier students (The Outdoor Classroom Project). Sydney Lynch, a Milton sophomore, says that she believes that outdoor classrooms, particularly for science and physical education classes, “would widen students understanding of nature.” Lynch says that she would “definitely be very happy to see our outdoor facilities being utilized to their full capacity,” as they would “aid in the enrichment of student learning.”

Alongside outdoor classrooms, senior privileges are another reason to consider broadening Milton’s educational parameters. Increased campus freedom has traditionally been considered an upperclassmen privilege for Milton’s students. However, the recent increase in restrictions over the years has limited historical senior liberties, such as eating lunch outside in the Senior Square (also known as the Senior Pavilion), an outdoor sitting area previously designated as a senior hangout. “I definitely feel like they got stricter with everything,” says Briana Li, a senior student at Milton. Li says that she feels that students should “have more freedom” and “be able to walk around campus without getting stopped every two seconds.”

Although many students are in favor of more student privileges, they are also aware of the reasoning behind the administrative precautions. “Considering that current issues on the safety of students at school, I do believe that the school does have reason to be restrictive,” says senior student Rithwik Koppaka. However, Koppaka goes on to assert that “then again, I think that opening the Senior Pavilion would be a nice change of pace for the seniors to eat outside.” Koppaka voices the sentiments of many; by reintroducing past senior privileges in balance with school safety policies, students would have greater access to a more well-rounded school experience, helping seniors to best “enjoy their last year at Milton High.”

Alongside implementing outdoor class periods and increasing senior liberties, students have additional ideas about how to make use of Milton’s outside spaces. “I think we could bring back gardening,” says Koppaka. “I had heard that some areas of the Senior Pavilion were used for gardening, and I think that it would be nice to try and learn [and] take care of something new.”

If more academic opportunities were to be extended outside of Milton’s school building, as discussed by Koppaka, some regulations and procedures would have to be implemented to ensure student and teacher safety. Some of these precautions would include taking into account weather reports, outdoor equipment maintenance, student attendance, and teacher supervision. Nevertheless, these extra measures would be worth the work to provide Milton students with a more flexible and higher quality learning environment.

Given its relatively large campus, a campus with several areas holding the potential to foster outside school activities, Milton should consider making greater use of these resources by incorporating the outdoors into its school curriculum. By integrating the outdoors with its current indoor school layout, Milton would not only be expanding its classrooms, but also broadening the modern-day perspective on learning. These natural learning environments should be implemented as an option for teachers and their students to receive an all-inclusive educational experience — one that makes the best use of all of its available resources, both inside and out.