Outdoor Education

Learning and playing in nature is a powerful part of the Independence experience at every grade level. The 90-Acre Independence campus is an inspiring setting for outdoor learning.

With more than 90 acres of fields, streams, and woods just outside their classroom doors, Independence teachers understand the value of outdoor education and they make the most of our amazing campus! 

The possibilities for content-rich lessons are as limitless as the sky itself. Streams are live science labs, plants and flowers inspire works of art. When learning outdoors, sticks and branches become measurement tools. Old paths and trails allow students to explore the history of the land and wonder about those who may have come before them. 

Plus, a large and growing body of research on the topic of outdoor education affirms that integrating outside time into the school day strengthens learning in all academic areas and is essential to students' overall health and well-being. 


Sometimes I take planned lessons—reading, writing, art—outside, but my favorite thing to do with the kids is take them out for free exploration. I follow their lead and am amazed by the discussions they have with their peers and the ideas they come up with. This freedom to explore their surroundings teaches them how to constantly evaluate and manage risks—‘How high can I climb this tree? Is that rock stable enough to step on?’—which also makes them more resilient and better risk-takers academically and in life.

Mrs. Barb Annable, First Grade


Outdoor Learning in Action



The Independence Outdoor Classroom


In September 2021, The Independence School opened an amazing outdoor classroom, inspired by our partnership with Nature Explore, an organization offering research-based outdoor classroom conceptualization services and educator workshops, and designed by Jonathan Ceci Landscape Architects. The outdoor classroom consists of 14 distinct play and learning areas on more than 57,600 square feet adjacent to our Early Childhood-Kindergarten classrooms. 

Our unique outdoor classroom design incorporates a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and grasses native to our region with learning spaces to inspire creativity, exploration, hands-on activities, movement, music and more. The space is enriched with natural materials such as logs, boulders and plantings. Pathways are being surfaced with a variety of materials to accommodate wheeled toy vehicles. 

We are proud to have also partnered with the Challenge Program of Wilmington, which provides vocational training to at-risk youth in the fabrication and construction of many of the wooden features.


Outdoor Classroom Highlights

Photos courtesy of Nature Explore Program, a division of Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.


watch our outdoor classroom become a reality

We are very appreciative of the many donors who have made this outdoor classroom possible with their gifts. We are fortunate to have two Independence alumni -  Amelia Julian Wyant ‘90 current parent and President of our Board of Trustees, and Kevin Heitzenroder ‘85 alumni parent and immediate past President of the Board - supporting the construction through their businesses. 

We couldn’t be doing any of this without another alumni family - Mrs. Ashley Quill Funk ‘95 and Mr. Vance Funk - whose generous contribution in 2018 has made the outdoor classroom a reality.

Outdoor classroom groundbreaking