Our Outdoor Learning Center (OLC) is the first of its kind in the west metro and serves as a giant school room. By holding class outside, we enhance a student’s academic learning experience by exploring nature hands-on. Completed in the spring of 2017, students of every age benefit from its educational design, as well as the beauty of the open air.
Research shows that access to nature in an educational setting has a positive impact on a student’s focus and learning by improving attentiveness, test scores and performance. By spending time outdoors, STS enhances our students’ performances and results in happier, healthier kids.
For our blueprint, we partnered with Nature Explore, who “transform children’s lives through research-based outdoor classroom design”. After visiting other outdoor classrooms, designs were drawn with elements unique to St. Therese.
The St. Therese community raised funds to construct the OLC. However, the work of our amazing parish and school volunteers reduced the final cost dramatically.
The design of the OLC includes ten unique stations for intended use and to foster discovery. Each station lends itself to a specific educational opportunity: building, climbing, observing, planting, gathering, creating … to name a few. All ages enjoy the OLC; our elementary students may spend time outdoors writing while middle schoolers learn key science concepts. The opportunities for learning are endless.
As much as possible, natural materials have been used to serve as a reminder of our call to be good stewards of God’s earth. Downed tree trunks, branches, stones, wood chips, sand and water are a few of the biodegradable components of the OLC.
Highlighting the construction are repurposed or recycled elements. Reclaimed church beams were transformed into benches, repurposed barn wood has been used to make station signs, and a downed hollowed out tree trunk was sanded smooth to provide an earthly tunnel.
God is All Around
There is no better place to marvel at God’s glorious gift of nature than outdoors.
As you take a panoramic look around the OLC, several elements highlight our Catholic faith.
The entrance arbor with red climbing roses is dedicated to our patron saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, “the Little Flower of Jesus”. Our raised grow bed is a large shape of a cross reminding us to grow closer to God. Scripture verses and parables are written on placards and signs that hint at the meaning behind each part of the coordinating station. A huge granite stone reminds us of the foundation of the Church, the Rock of Peter.