The Outdoor Classroom allows students at Hilltop to foster stewardship of gardens, observe the changing seasons, understand plant and animal life cycles, and to critically think about their connection to the land. Hilltop believes that the outdoor classroom will enable students to become more aware of their surroundings, laying a foundation for future environmental actions and overall consciousness of the land in which we inhabit. Students in kindergarten through grade 4 experience the outdoor classroom through our structured, sequential, and comprehensive, environmental science curriculum.
The Outdoor Classroom offers unlimited opportunities to teach across the curriculum and provides many chances for higher-level thinking. In addition to science lessons, students also practice mathematics such as data gathering, measuring, and categorizing. In social studies students learn about the use of a compass, the history of the area, and geography and map making. Reading and writing are two activities that can be done outdoors and vocabulary is increased as nature is identified and labeled. In addition, our students will run, explore, sing, and sketch outside.
Outdoor Classroom Includes
- Herb Garden
- Potato Patch
- Stick Habitat
- Aquatic Habitat
- Bird Watching Center
Topics of Study
- Terracycle Brigade: Kindergarteners collect “Little Bites” pouches which are cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products
- Seed collecting from our garden, drying and storing for the winter
- Classification of seeds
- Exploring the world of plants through experiential learning in the Outdoor Classroom
- Scavenger hunts for different seeds and nuts
- Migration of birds and monarchs
- Metamorphosis of butterflies through rearing and releasing of monarchs in classroom
- Symbolic migration with Journey North, an international organization dedicated to citizen science. Journey North engages citizen scientists in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Students share their field observations with classmates across North America.
- The Lost Ladybug Project: citizen scientists and students look for and photograph ladybugs and submit the photos to the Department of Entomology at Cornell University to help scientist collect data about the current trends in the ladybug population
- Habitat loss/ over population/ NJ mammals
- Composting in the lunchroom
- Terracycle Recycling program: third grade is responsible for collecting and organizing aluminum and plastic pouches in lunchroom to be shipped to Terracycle to be recycled into new products. Terracycle is a global movement to reduce landfill trash.
- Project Feeder Watch from November to April in association with Cornell University, the main goal of Project Feeder Watch is to combine the interests of backyard bird watchers with the needs of ornithologists who study bird populations. Observations submitted by students help scientists study changes in the distribution and abundance of feeder birds over time.
- Rearing, tagging and releasing in partnership with Monarch Watch and University of Kansas
- Students in September and October raise monarchs, collect data, tag, and release them to begin their long migration to Mexico. The data is then entered online to be used by scientists to monitor the fluctuations in the monarch population over time.
Lion’s Club International Eyeglasses Recycling Program, students collect eyeglasses to be donated to the Lion’s Club for distribution around the world.