Innovation

Outdoor Laboratory

The unique Outdoor Lab, with the wetlands, prairie, savannah, and pond
ignited my passion for the environment and fueled my desire to pursue environmental studies.

-- LFCDS Young Alumna
The Greene Outdoor Laboratory provides students an opportunity to study nature and earth science in an interactive setting. Through a partnership with Lake Forest Open Lands Association, LFCDS began restoring a parcel of woodland on the south side of its campus in 2012. Today, this “living natural laboratory” is used across all grades and disciplines for a variety of activities, whether it is an English class writing poetry inspired by nature or a science class studying ecosystems. Students use magnifying glasses, large and small fish nets, soil sample jars, Vernier Lab probes, and other scientific instruments to conduct a variety of experiments in this one-of-a-kind classroom.

Environmental Awareness

The Outdoor Laboratory is just one example of the School’s commitment to instilling in our students an understanding of and a connection to the world around us. LFCDS teaches resource management actions, proactive recycling measures, and “green” conservation practices in science classes to promote responsible citizenship. The Outdoor Laboratory provides a rare opportunity for students to learn conservation science and practice environmental stewardship—right in our backyard.

Integrated Curriculum

Activities related to the Outdoor Laboratory have been embedded in the Lower and Upper School science curricula as well as into the curricula of the Early Childhood Center classes. Junior kindergarten students use the trails for regularly scheduled nature hikes and other outdoor exploration; first-grade students head out to the area to tend to fern gardens and study the plant and animal life that exists in the vernal pool; and students in fourth grade map the locations of non-native trees and study the patterns of the growth rings. In the Upper School, students perform water quality analysis and study macroinvertebrates; measure the difference in soil and air temperatures using Vernier lab probes; and work together to create topographical maps of the area. Beginning in 2015, the seventh-grade class engaged in a two-year STEM+ project focused on designing and building a functioning conservation center for the Greene Outdoor Laboratory. In seventh grade, the students used a CAD program to create building designs and constructed “to-scale” models. A single building design was chosen, and the students constructed the conservation center during their eighth-grade year.

A Living Dialogue

Julia Dixon, a 2012 graduate of LFCDS and a participant in Lake Forest Open Lands’ Center for Conservation Leadership program, created six QR codes (barcodes) that are placed on signs throughout the Outdoor Laboratory. When visitors scan the codes with the help of a smartphone, they are taken to a website containing information on the different types of plant life that exists in the area, what a vernal pool is and how it works relative to the seasons, how glacier activity impacted the region, and more. Julia was awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Environmental Award in 2014 for her work on the Outdoor Laboratory.
A co-educational independent school for students age 2 through Grade 8.
Graduating students of strong character with a passion for learning since 1888.

Lake Forest Country Day School