By Kelsey Moline, Nature Explore Classroom Designer and Kara Ficke, Nature Explore Resource Development Manager
Creating a sustainable and effective outdoor classroom can be a wonderful experience. From dreaming about what the outdoor space could be, to getting the design in place, to construction and finally daily use by children, educators, families and community. However, it is important to remember it’s a process, and we are here to support you along the way.
So…you have a design for your outdoor classroom. Now what? Your staff is excited and you have a concept plan created by a Nature Explore landscape architect and education specialist, in collaboration with your team. The design is beautiful and incorporates a rich mix of activity areas that fit perfectly with your landscape and educational goals. Everyone is on cloud 9 and ready to get started. Let us help you keep that momentum going and get a game plan in place so you can continue moving forward!
Continue to Fundraise
Concept Plan – Your professionally designed, fully rendered concept plan is the perfect tool to start or continue fundraising. Show the community your vision!
- Post your plan on a website, social media platforms, in parent newsletters, etc.
- Create a wish list where donors can purchase specific items or sponsor an area of the outdoor classroom.
- Your concept plan can also accompany grant applications. Visit funding resources on the Community Connection section of our website for a grant template and a list of organizations who may contribute to the creation of your outdoor classroom.
Donor Dedications – Donor dedications are a wonderful way to add a very personal touch to your outdoor classroom.
- Selling engraved bricks, pavers or personalized fence “pickets,” to be installed in your outdoor classroom, is a great way to honor donors, students, families, businesses, and advocates.
- Custom signage for each of your Nature Explore activity areas can be engraved with the donor’s name or a custom name for the area.
- Create engraved plaques to be placed on planter boxes, benches, tables, etc.
Traditional Fundraisers – There are A LOT of fundraising ideas out there. Here are a few classic fundraisers you may want to consider:
- Selling organic or fair trade goods has great profit potential and also supports a great cause.
- Hosting a walk-a-thon is a lot of fun and gets everyone outside walking together. Invite your community and plan fun activities for children and adults to participate in!
- Plan a silent auction with themed baskets full of items representing the outdoor classroom, such as exploration, gardening, music, building and outdoor art.
Funds for Maintenance – Maintenance and replenishment are important for a long-lasting, vibrant outdoor classroom. Here are some ideas to consider in the near future once your outdoor classroom is built:
- Develop a “Green for Green” fundraiser in which families purchase a plant and care for it within the outdoor classroom.
- Hold a “Farmer’s Market” with sales of produce and cut flowers that come from the outdoor classroom.
- Rent your completed classroom out for birthday parties and other events with proceeds going to maintenance.
Engage a Contractor, Skilled Volunteers, or Both
Finding a Professional Contractor – If you are looking to hire a professional, ask for local recommendations for landscape contractors or design/build landscape architecture firms from your families, staff and other community members. Your state Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) chapter or Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) can often recommend a landscape contractor who will be familiar with the scope of your project. Ask for a contractor skilled at wood construction, flagstone and concrete, as well as designing and installing a planting plan.
Engaging your Contractor – It’s often helpful to set up a meeting with your contractor, or potential contractors, and your Action Team or Project Leader to further define the project. If you invited your contractor to your Nature Explore design consultation, perfect! If not, now’s the time to catch them up. Be sure to share with them all the materials and plans created by the Nature Explore team, and let him or her know they are welcome to call us with any questions that may arise.
Using Volunteers – A successful volunteer day will require planning, direction and setting reasonable goals for the day. Be sure that volunteers have the necessary skills for the assigned task. Volunteers are especially helpful in laying mulch, planting and assembling outdoor furnishings. If items require permanent installation (meaning the item needs to be set in concrete), be sure this step is done by a professional or someone with knowledge in this area. Remember — positive energy and a wealth of gratitude will go a long way. We love our volunteers!
Celebrate Along the Way!
Celebrating is so important. You are doing VERY important work and changing lives. Hosting a ground-breaking event prior to starting work on the outdoor classroom and a ribbon-cutting ceremony when the work is completed are great milestones to commemorate. We suggest inviting all stakeholders and local media to attend these events.
We’re Here to Help
Throughout your entire process of creating an outdoor classroom, we’re always here to offer continued support. Contact us with questions about additional services and resources we can offer you after your design consultation.
Need to Schedule a Design Consultation?
Our research-based design approach, coupled with strong educational knowledge really makes our process unique. Our multidisciplinary team will offer you professional knowledge and experience applied directly to the design of children’s outdoor environments. It’s also a collaborative effort: YOU are a part of this. We will help your team build consensus and create a unified vision. We help you ask all the important questions upfront, and our years of experience will help save you time and money in the long run. The end result: a space that really works for children and educators.
We would love to hear from you! Contact us at email@example.com or (888) 908-8733.