Luisa Aviles wasn’t always an Instructional Coach for Out Teach. She first encountered the organization when she was a teacher at L. K. Hall elementary, where she taught for seven years. Luisa remembers what it was like before the Out Teach program (then REAL School Gardens) came to her school.
“After even just a few years, teachers can get tired and frustrated. You want to help these kids learn, but over and over again, it can feel like you’re hitting a wall. There’s always kids who struggle with certain concepts, or behavior problems, or attention issues. And you’re struggling to help all your kids, searching for new ideas, or you’re spending hours trying to create solutions on your own. I’m a creative person, but sometimes it felt like I was reinventing the wheel.
I knew I needed more professional development. And while the district offered one-day PD sessions, their one-size fits all approach meant that there were only a few tips you could apply to your own daily practice. That’s not helpful to a teacher’s professional growth. Think of teachers like doctors or lawyers. For every student individually, and then the class as a whole, you need to analyze the situation, spot the challenges, then holistically look for long-term solutions. For 30 kids, for every lesson, every single day. And no one-day session is of much help there.
So when our principal partnered with Out Teach (then REAL School Gardens,) I knew that this was something very different. I could tell they were there to support me as a fellow professional.
During the first training, we were outside, learning in our own space, and I realized that this was what I had been searching for. This was different. This was a whole new way to teach. Everything I needed was right there outside. I could use all my skills, all my creativity, and shift over to experiential learning in an outdoor setting. It was so exciting.
And then our Instructional Coach returned, over and over again, working with teachers with their own students, in their own environment. I couldn’t get enough. I worked with the Instructional Coach and developed a six-week cross-curricular unit for my kindergarten class. That class had a number of behavior issues I needed to manage, so some teachers were really surprised that I was taking my students outside, but I knew this approach could work wonders, and I was right.
For six weeks I got the children more engaged and self-directed by giving them experiential lessons outdoors. At the end of it, not only did they all do well on their district test, but the kids who had exhibited difficult behavior beforehand, they shaped up and stayed right with me when we were learning outdoors. Outside, I could just redirect all of that energy into the project and they really thrived. I could really see a new path for myself and way to be more effective every day, and that’s deeply fulfilling professionally. Now every day, I enjoy helping other teachers transform learning for their classes and themselves.
MORE THAN 150 VOLUNTEERS BUILD AN OUTDOOR LEARNING LAB FOR LEBANON ROAD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
On September 26, more than 150 teachers, students, and community volunteers will work side-by-side to build an Outdoor Learning Lab at Lebanon Road Elementary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Soon, Lebanon Road students will have a dynamic new Outdoor Learning Lab where teachers can lead exciting and engaging outdoor experiential lessons that add relevance, purpose, and real-world meaning to every subject.
This “Big Dig” event is hosted by Out Teach (formerly REAL School Gardens), a national nonprofit that coaches and inspires teachers to unlock student performance with the power of outdoor experiential learning. The Charlotte Hornets Foundation and Novant Health have stepped forward to provide both funding and the volunteers for the project.
Outdoor experiential learning deepens students’ understanding of key concepts, sparks children’s curiosity, and gets them excited about learning. This new Outdoor Learning Lab matches up with two of the Charlotte Hornets Foundation’s four pillars for community outreach – education and wellness. The new Outdoor Learning Lab will contain dozens of curriculum-aligned features that will give students hands-on real-world activities to get them more engaged in their Science, Math, and Literacy lessons while also boosting their health and well-being.
Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center, the health system’s 15th hospital, will open its doors on Oct. 1 just a few miles down the street from the school. Team members from the new hospital are excited to lend a hand in creating this community’s Outdoor Learning Lab.
“Both education and environment are key priorities for Novant Health, and this project blends the two together beautifully,” said Joy Greear, president and chief operating officer of Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center. “We see this as a long-term community partnership, and look forward to building relationships with the teachers, students and families at Lebanon Road Elementary.”
Where: Lebanon Road Elementary School
7300 Lebanon Rd, Charlotte, NC 28227
When: Wednesday, September 26 – Opening Ceremony 9:00 AM
The project began with students drawing out the different features they wanted in their Outdoor Learning Lab. With even more ideas from dozens of parents, teachers, and administrators, the Out Teach team created the final design and volunteer building plan based on the school community’s vision.
By the end of the day, the new Outdoor Learning Lab will be complete with dozens of features that enhance instruction and give students hands-on lessons in every subject. The finished outdoor classroom will have seating areas, white boards, raised vegetable and flower beds, a weather station, earth science stations, rain barrels, animal and insect habitats and more.
Out Teach will then provide years of training and professional development and coaching to show teachers how to use each different feature to improve instruction and deepen student understanding. By leading engaging outdoor experiential lessons, teachers will get students excited about school and give them a deep understanding of what they’re learning, building a strong foundation of knowledge on which to grow.
Going Outside Expectations
REAL School Gardens is becoming Out Teach
National Nonprofit Changes its Name
To Better Reflect Focus on Teachers
For more than a decade, REAL School Gardens has been working for a future in which all students have access to the kind of engaging and hands-on education that can change their lives, schools, and communities. The nonprofit quickly discovered that teacher development and support is the key to success in this mission, and it now works with schools across the country to support and coach teachers. Today, the organization announced it has changed its name to Out Teach to better reflect its focus on equipping teachers to unlock student performance with the power of outdoor experiential education.
Being a teacher is hard work. Each day, the nation relies on teachers to ensure that every student not only learns about math, science, and literacy, but also masters 21st Century workforce skills, all the while developing their social-emotional abilities. Even the most dedicated teachers need high-quality professional development to help their students succeed.
However, studies show that less than half of all teachers receive effective professional development, and only one in five report they receive tailored coaching. Teachers in low-income schools have even fewer effective professional learning opportunities, despite a much greater need. Across the board, science instructions suffers because of a lack of professional development. In fact, 40% of elementary students receive less than one hour of science per week and it shows. On national tests, 62% of 4th graders are not proficient in Science.
To give teachers the tools and training they need to succeed, national nonprofit REAL School Gardens has spent the past 15 years empowering more than 6,500 teachers in low-income elementary schools with job-embedded professional learning and engaging outdoor learning labs, helping them harness the power of outdoor experiential learning to improve student outcomes. Because when teachers succeed, students succeed.
That investment in professional development has produced measurable results. Data from 1,382+ teachers in the program last year shows:
- 96% showed increased effectiveness across 7 measures of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
- 95% reported being better prepared as educators as a result of our training, and say they are able to apply the content of the professional development to their work right away.
- 94% reported that their students were more engaged as a result of the program.
Using an evidence-based approach, the organization equips teachers use outdoor spaces to deliver experiential lessons that accelerate learning, build critical thinking skills, and increase student engagement. Research shows the program measurably improves teacher effectiveness and student engagement, the two strongest predictors of long term student success.
Now, to clearly reflect their commitment to teachers, the organization is changing its name to Out Teach. A new name and tagline “Out Teach – Go Outside Expectations” and a new logo highlight the importance of teachers and the need for training to help them radically shift their daily practice from traditional teacher-centered instruction to more effective and inspiring student-driven learning.
Out Teach partners with schools and districts to provide years of job-embedded professional development so teachers can easily implement effective outdoor experiential lessons. Instead of just changing a few teachers’ practices, Out Teach works with teachers, principals, and instructional leaders to create a new school culture. By coaching and inspiring teachers to lead outdoor experiential lessons, the organization works to unlock the performance of every student.
Though their focus on teachers remains the same, the new name helps position the organization to expand its professional development offerings to new districts and regions across the country. Now, as part of a national expansion plan, Out Teach is also announcing its new commitment to scale up its teacher professional learning programs to reach 15,000 teachers by 2023.
Out Teach is well on their way. Over the past two years the organization has:
- Doubled its regional footprint, partnering with 17 school districts across 7 cities
- Provided 2x more teachers with job-embedded instructional coaching, having trained 1,382 in 2018
- Developed an online Coaching Center, offering on-demand training videos and support to 3,300 teachers
- Started offering proven professional development programs to any school with under-used outdoor space
- Reached 57,610 students, becoming a national leader in outdoor experiential learning and professional development for teachers
Now, as Out Teach, the organization is strongly positioned to finish scaling its impact and reach its 2023 goal.
Out Teach gives teachers the tools they need to get outside – beyond the classroom – to create unforgettable learning experiences and measurable results for their students. Because teachers who lead effective outdoor experiential lessons ensure that every student looks forward to school and is excited to learn. By inspiring curiosity and a sense of wonder, teachers can help students build a foundation of real-world knowledge and experiences to last a lifetime.
About Out Teach
By coaching and inspiring teachers, and building them engaging outdoor learning labs, Out Teach unlocks student performance with the power of outdoor experiential learning. We equip teachers to use outdoor spaces to deliver exciting, engaging lessons aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core, and standards. We also partner with corporations to build dynamic Outdoor Learning Labs, full of features teachers can use to deepen student understanding of key concepts in Math, Science, and Literacy. Out Teach is currently executing a national growth plan, and by 2023, will be in 15 cities across 5 regions, reaching 15,000 teachers and 200,000 students every year.
For more information, contact Alison Risso, 202.621.2375 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Out Teach would like to thank the team at Red Deluxe for all of their work on this rebranding.
About Red Deluxe
Red Deluxe Brand Development is brand consulting and campaign development firm that works with corporate and nonprofit clients across the country to plan and execute effective messaging projects, including research studies, program naming, rebrands, and national PSA campaigns. More information about Red Deluxe can be found at www.reddeluxe.com.
REAL School Gardens has spent the past 15 years empowering more than 6,500 teachers in low-income elementary schools with effective professional development and engaging outdoor classrooms, helping them harness the power of outdoor experiential learning to improve student outcomes. Because when teachers succeed, students succeed.
Over the past few years, REAL School Gardens has started growing at breakneck speed. Thanks to our dedicated supporters, board and staff, and enthusiastic school partners, we’ve working with more teachers than ever before in Texas, the Mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas, and the Southeast! We’ve also deepened the impact of our teacher training program and developed an online Coaching Center to provide additional support — all in the matter of just two years.
And with growth comes change, so I’m writing today to share some exciting news!
To clearly reflect our commitment to teachers, we are changing our name to Out Teach. This new name along with a new tagline “Go Outside Expectations” and a new logo help us highlight the importance of teachers and the need for training to help them radically shift their daily practice from traditional teacher-centered instruction to more effective and inspiring student-driven learning. Teachers need to do something new and different to help their students succeed, and we want them to know we’re with them every step of the way.
The name REAL School Gardens will always have a special place in my heart and our history, and it’s hard to say goodbye to a name created by our inspiring founders, Suzy Peacock and Stacey Hodge, and our founding investor, businessman and philanthropist Richard Rainwater, and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation. Moving forward as Out Teach, we promise to stay true to their vision of outdoor experiential learning and their dedication to teachers.
The hard work that went into building REAL School Gardens will live on through Out Teach and I thank each and every one of you for your support on this journey. I invite you to join us as we continue to empower teachers and students to go outside expectations. Your support as we take these next steps is critical. Please take a moment and donate now to impact the lives of thousands of teachers and students in the coming years.
Chief Executive Officer
We are coaching and inspiring teachers.
We are unlocking student performance.
We are empowering schools to go outside expectations.
We are Out Teach.
This first story is from Martha Brown.
“Each grade level harvested potatoes from their garden bed and donated their potatoes to the Salvation Army, Irving chapter. We kept a chart totaling each grade level’s collection and used fractions when appropriate. We were trying to add up what we had collected so far, and one group of third graders were struggling with adding 4 1/2 pounds plus 6 3/4 pounds. We went back over to the scales and weighed 1/2 pounds in potatoes. We took those potatoes off the scale and then weighed out 3/4 pounds. Once we determined we had 1/2 and 3/4 pounds we put 3/4 pounds on the scale and added the 1/2 pounds one potato at a time. Learners saw the scale reach the 1 pound mark and then instantly knew it was going to go to 1 and 1/4 pounds. These learners understood more deeply about how to add fractions than if they had just been working with pencil and paper. The real world experience of weighing vegetables gave them such a valuable lesson. This group reworked their original problem and were able to solve it. We continued on to weigh our onions in ounces after that with student success!”
These next two stories are from Alison Wilkinson, shared by Martha Brown”
“Alison had given her 3rd grade dual language learners a brief lesson in the classroom on the properties of matter but knew some of her learners were struggling with the vocabulary. Alison took her class to the outdoor learner area and followed a REAL School Gardens lesson on the properties of matter. After the students collected about 15 solids in baggies with a partner, Alison modeled how to sort one of the baggies describing the properties of the objects as rough or smooth. It was then the learners turn to sort as they saw fit. Alison saw her struggling learners use the vocabulary words “properties” and “matter” correctly in sentences. Her students were extremely excited and found other ways to sort their objects. One group showed her their sort by manmade and things found in nature. They were very pleased with their work. Alison extended the lesson by having each group take a picture of their sort. She brought it back into the classroom and each group shared their picture and the class had to guess their sort. Alison said her class truly grasped the meaning of properties of matter after being outdoors with the lesson and asked if they could collect different objects on another day.”
“Alison presented a lesson on sound energy to her class in the outdoor learning center. She wanted her class to have a better understanding of what sound energy looked like in everyday settings while understanding vocabulary such as pitch and volume. She modeled with a student partner the way they would look for sound in the outdoors. She and her partner recorded a video with sound only on the iPad, crumpling leaves together. They then took a picture of the crumpled leaves with their iPad. Alison and her partnered described the sound as a medium pitch and low volume with crackling sound. At that point the dual language partners found their own objects and recorded sound and took pictures. They then took turns and let the class try to guess their sound by describing it’s pitch and volume and other sound attributes. The class was excited to see who correctly guessed when the partners shared their picture. The learners loved this lesson and struggling learners quickly caught on how to use the words pitch and volume when describing sound.”
This past week, the head of our instructional team traveled to our Southeast Region for STEMfest, where hundreds of teachers gather to learn the best teaching techniques and share best practices. You can check out some lesson plans from different participants, watch a short video of Vanessa at work, see pictures from the sessions, and read some of the feedback she received below.
“I really enjoyed your session over the past two days. It has really sparked some great, practical ideas for how to start engaging my students in meaningful learning experiences by taking their learning outdoors. My favorite part of the session was the time that you allowed for us to plan lessons that we could take back to our classrooms using your online portal. I feel confident in taking ideas from some of these lessons to mold them to fit my students and our state standards. You were very helpful in walking around and guiding us towards making effective lessons for our students.”
“I loved that you pointed out that outdoor learning does not have to be an all day every day type of thing, it is used to engage our students and allow them to have connections in order to have a learning experience that will stick with them for years to come.”
“Thank you so much for all your help! You have given us some great ideas for how to move forward in planning our lessons for our upcoming STEM certification process. This was probably the most meaningful and effective professional development session I have attended!”
“I definitely now think of the garden as a literacy classroom whereas in the past I thought of it as science and math classroom. I also feel that I will add the outdoors as a weekly activity instead of when I can fit it in.Thank you so much for the abundance of ideas and resources.”
“I am a nature person and am so passionate about teaching outdoors. This workshop validated that taking children outdoors can be so meaningful and relevant to my students. I have so many ideas now about how its not just about science, but how I can incorporate literacy into the outdoors.I am excited to share with our school administration and staff about what your company offers and how they can start utilizing the outdoors more!! Thank you so much!!!”
“Thank you so much I learned a great amount of information about using our outdoor classroom. A co worker and myself talked about how we could use for example a compost bin in our school after watching the video of the kids outside. Our school is working on becoming stem certified so our principal is very interested and encouraging teachers to think outside of the box. I love science and now will go back to my team to discuss how can we use our outside space when we are teaching ELA or Math. I would love to have someone come out to out to our school to work with a few teachers regarding stem. We are a charter school and sadly we do not have all the funding public schools do. “
“I am super excited to bring everything that I’ve learned the past two days back to my STEM team. About two weeks ago, my principal asked me to look into starting a STEM program at the school. I have created a team of teachers who are interested. I am jumping in head first with this, and before attending this session, I didn’t know much about outdoor learning. Many of the lessons we worked with fit perfectly with my ELA and Science standards. I enjoyed the videos we watched today and will go back to watch and observe the instructor. I am also looking forward to meeting with my principal and telling her the many reasons why outdoor learning is important. I learned a lot the past two days, and am very thankful to have had this experience. You were awesome!”
“Thank you for the great information that was presented. I enjoyed learning about ways to integrate curriculum — especially the writing portion which is often so difficult for kids because they’re not interested in the topic. Also, the information on ways to journal more effectively were awesome. Sketching using shapes, writing in complete sentences, etc. Reminding us as teachers to stand facing the sun instead of the kids facing the sun was a fun takeaway.”
“Thank you so much for devoting your time to us over the last couple of days. The 2nd teachers at Kemp are taking away so much from this training. The Real School Gardens website is amazing. We got so many great lesson ideas from that. I loved hearing all the ways we can integrate science and literacy. The behavior management ideas were also beneficial. I am looking forward to getting my classroom outside for learning this upcoming school year! Thanks again!!”
Spring is here, and everyone is excited to get into the outdoor classroom. To make the most of your class time outdoors, Edna Chirico, the Executive Director of our Carolinas Region, shares some great tips!
- Remember to treat your outdoor space as a classroom.
- Ensuring students are holding their composition books, pencils, and other learning tools helps remind students they’re here to learn.
- Before heading out, instruct students on where to assemble to receive class instructions and what they are to accomplish while outside.
- Many schools choose to work with students to develop garden rules and post them outside.
- Leading the class in an outdoor classroom pledge gives students another cue that the space is to be treated as a classroom
- Be sure to point out landmarks students are not to go beyond.
- Check out other outdoor classroom management techniques on our online Coaching Center. On the lesson menu, under Type, search for Classroom Management. (email email@example.com if you need help logging on)
- Our friends at Boston Schoolyard have some more great tips.
- Students and adults alike are excited to get to work, which can create a flurry of unfocused activity that ends up not producing results
- Pay attention to planting and seed instructions. Not only will your plants be more successful, but students can learn so much from informational text.
- Soil temperature can be measured. Just because it feels warm to you doesn’t mean the seeds will thrive. Use a soil or compost thermometer to gather even more data.
- Look at days to maturity and compare to your school calendars.
- Lots of fruits and vegetables mature in the summer, but who will be there to harvest them?
- We’ve had lots of great luck with radishes because they mature quickly.
- Here’s a delicious Radish Leaf Pesto recipe, courtesy of the Carolinas Region Nutrition team!
- 1 cup, packed radish leaves; ¼ cup olive oil ; 1 clove garlic; 1/8 teaspoon salt. Place all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth. Drizzle over quartered radishes.
- Check out our May Maintenance Tips on our online Coaching Center.
- Research how to enrich your soil with organic fertilizer or compost.
- Happy soil makes happy plants. Learn more here.
- Think about companion planting to maximize resources like sun and water, and minimize pest and weed issues.
- Certain flowers like Daisy, Marigold, Clover, Bee Balm, and Coneflower are good companions for vegetable gardens.
- Learn more here.
- A manageable learning garden can’t feed a whole class, so look for high-impact plants where every kid can get a little taste of success.
- Consider growing herbs like rosemary, basil, oregano, chives, parsley, sage, thyme and mint.
- Be careful with mint, thyme and oregano, because they can be a bit invasive. Plant them in clay pots if you want to keep them in check, or go ahead and let them take over an unused area. Then students can pick as much as they like!
- Prepare for visitors, both pollinators and pests
- Tracking Monarch Butterflies from Mexico through the Carolinas. It’s an amazing lesson in life-cycles and geography.
- Have milkweed and other food and nectar sources in your garden and teach children about habitats
- You may find other visitors to your garden as well – mice, rabbits, birds, etc.
- Watching for signs of pests and other visitors can be an impactful lesson. What circumstantial evidence can students gather to determine what types of animals are using the space?
- Schools that have issues with rodents should make sure there are no food scraps in their compost.
Good luck, and enjoy using the outdoor classroom!
NATIONAL NONPROFIT REAL SCHOOL GARDENS TAPS
SUZANNAH KOILPILLAI TO LEAD NEW SOUTHEAST REGION
After an extensive search led by People Performance Resources, LLC, REAL School Gardens is proud to introduce Suzannah Koilpillai, who will be the Executive Director of our new Southeast region, headquartered in Atlanta.
REAL School Gardens gets students excited about school and more engaged in learning with effective outdoor lessons in science, math, literacy and nutrition education. By training teachers to use standards-based outdoor lessons, partner schools have seen increases in standardized test score pass rates of up to 12-15 percent. The REAL School Gardens Professional Learning Program has also been proven to boost teacher effectiveness and job satisfaction and improve student engagement in learning.
“We are thrilled that Suzannah is at the helm of this new region,” said Jeanne McCarty, CEO of REAL School Gardens. “She has a proven track record of building win/win partnerships, which is just what we want for our newest region.”
Before she was tapped to lead REAL School Gardens’ Southeast Region, Koilpillai used her leadership skills and sales savvy to boost B2B, B2C, and e-commerce sales for Napp Deady and Hill Street Warehouse, two Atlanta based retail/wholesale companies servicing the hospitality, landscape, and design industries throughout the US. She was most recently the VP of Sales leading her team to expand the company nationally by creating new offerings and partnership opportunities. Outside of work, Koilpillai volunteers for organizations dedicated to improving the health and educational opportunities in low-income communities. Koilpillai is married to a life-long educator and has two young sons, and her family fuels her desire to help all kids receive access to a great education and healthy foods.
Koilpillai says, “I’m thrilled to combine my background in sales and leadership with my desire to make an impact in education. My husband was a teacher for years, so I know how much teachers want to help their kids succeed. And as my own kids became school aged, I saw that every kid in the class would get excited about learning when teachers gave them the chance to really experience new concepts, explore the natural world, and make discoveries themselves. I’m also passionate about healthy eating, and REAL School Gardens has found a way to effectively embed nutrition education into the regular school day! I know our region will benefit enormously from the program. I’m excited to bring REAL School Gardens to my hometown.”
About REAL School Gardens
REAL School Gardens provides extensive teacher training on how to use school gardens to boost academics and builds outdoor classrooms in low-income schools. In 2016, the organization launched a strategic growth plan to bring REAL School Gardens to a total of six geographic regions and 15 markets by 2020. Once the expansion is complete, the organization will engage 225,000 children each year in daily, REAL-world learning. For more information, visit www.realschoolgardens.org.
We started our Professional Learning Program at Green Acres Elementary in Atlanta earlier this month and everyone had a blast. We got some wonderful feedback on the surveys.
“This training was so engaging and informative..really got us excited about taking our students outside”
“The garden can be used for more than just science…it extends across content..even art and music”
“Our trainers were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable..my only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough”
Did you know that trees bloom? The tree that is in bloom right NOW in Charlotte is the Red Maple. It’s the tree that, from a distance, looks like a red haze. A maple tree is a perfect writing lesson waiting to happen. Locate a maple tree on your school property. Take you class outside and observe it closely. Look at and feel the bark. Sketch the shape of the tree. (All trees have a distinctive shape.) Use a hand lens to observe the flowers. Brainstorm a list of words to describe the tree and the flowers.
If you and your class continue to observe your maple tree, you will soon be rewarded with leaves sprouting and ‘helicopters,’ which are actually the seeds! Keep observing it over time. Who knows what you and your students can add to your Tree Journaling!
Hint: Use an iPad or your cell phone to take pictures of your tree. Make the photos and observations into an amazing writing bulletin board to showcase your students’ work! Remember: Scientific work is public!
Do you want a place for your students to contribute their observations to a scientific community? Check our Project BudBurst, a citizen science project. Project BudBurst is on a mission – to get you outside taking a moment to observe how plants in your community change with the seasons. When you share yourobservations with us, they become part of an ecological record. Spending time outside with plants is calming, educational, and just plain fun.
Go to: http://budburst.org/