The Slavia Village Outdoor Classroom at St. Luke’s Preschool is an outdoor learning space that
replicates all the interest areas of a typical preschool classroom, but is entirely outside. Interest
areas include Dramatic Play, Music & Movement, Sand & Dirt, Building & Construction, Stage,
Art Area, Chapel, Open Area, Water & Sensory, YEZ (Young Explorers Zone), Butterfly Garden
and Slavia Village Cafe. Teachers and students treat this space as a classroom, not a
playground. The Outdoor Classroom has its own curriculum and all of the preschool classes
visit this area at some point in their day in addition to their playground time. Our STEAM classes
use the Outdoor Classroom as their main learning environment. This space has become such a
key element of our school and a passion of our principal, Mrs. Ileana Barbari.
This idea of an outdoor classroom actually began 10 years ago during a staff meeting with Mrs.
Barbari and the preschool teachers. They were about to transition out of their Haven preschool
space and move into the building next door, which is where the preschool is currently located.
Teachers were concerned about the playground and outdoor space for all their students. With
the courtyard area in the center of the preschool, Mrs. Barbari thought it would be a new and
innovative idea to bring the indoors out! She had a few leftover dramatic play houses, a plethora
of blocks and some plastic kid tables and with that, the outdoor classroom idea was born! With
the help of teachers, parents, the school maintenance team and a few institutes, like the
Tacoma Nature Center in Washington, that had small outdoor learning spaces, she was able to
create a space where the students could learn and play all while being outside. She had dads
who owned landscaping businesses that helped with planting, irrigation and sectioning off the
interest areas. She had grandpas building various wooden items. The maintenance team helped
with building projects and other jobs around the outdoor space. Teachers and parents helped
(and continue to help) with the upkeep of the space. It truly takes a village to keep this space
After a few years, Mrs. Barbari realized the need for outdoor learning spaces and the benefit it
had on children’s learning and behavior. She became passionate about making this space the
best Outdoor Classroom she could! She continued to add new learning spaces and started the
STEAM program which is now offered from 18 months – 4 years old. She created an afterschool
program, called Outdoor Explorers, that focuses on science and social studies topics that is held
in the Outdoor Classroom. She designed a Science Lab that houses animal friends, like a
rabbit, aquatic turtle, tortoise and hermit crab, along with other tools that enhance children’s
learning like microscopes, a wind tunnel, wooden stump blocks and more! Our Outdoor
Classroom is truly one of a kind!
It’s amazing to see the transformation this space has gone through over the years. It’s still one
of the most loved and talked about areas of our preschool. Not to mention the amazing benefits
that come from children learning and playing outdoors. The Slavia Village Outdoor Classroom
continues to evolve especially with more outdoor products becoming available and the
increased interest in outdoor learning spaces for kids. I know this space is only going to get
better as the years go on. What started as a couple houses, a few tables and some blocks, has
turned into so much more!