Applied Research Consortium

February 18, 2022

Designing Outdoor Learning Environments that Support Educator Wellness and Success

ARC Fellow: Alondra Garcia
Degree Program: M Arch / MLA (dual degree)
Faculty Advisor: Heather Burpee, Architecture
Firm: DLR Group
Firm Advisors: B. Sanborn, Brice Aarrestad, Melissa Brower
Project dates: Autumn 2021 – Spring 2022

Read the Project Plan
Spring Presentation Slide Deck
Recorded Spring Presentation

More about the project:

The impacts of COVID 19 have shed light on the necessity for the provision of different types of living, learning, and working environments and, specifically, outdoor spaces. A large body of research explores the restorative effects of nature and outdoor spaces in general, yet effective outdoor learning environments (OLEs) are rarely researched. Further, even fewer research projects explore educator wellness and success when teaching in OLEs. This research project will seek to expand these dimensions in regard to the design of outdoor learning environments, their impacts on educator wellness, and educators’ ability to relay educational content in a K-5 elementary setting. The resulting study will end in a proposal for design guidelines for integrated teams to employ effective interventions in OLEs, as well as, training materials for BOLD to incorporate OLEs into pedagogy, in support of teacher wellness and engagement.

OLEs, although broad in scope, are identified in this project as physical outdoor classroom spaces. The benefits of these outdoor spaces include providing frequent access to nature for both educators and students and supporting existing educator pedagogy and curriculum by making the transition from indoor to outdoor learning more accessible. (Alondra Garcia/TRICIA DRAKE, LINDEN WALDORF SCHOOL)Case study: Linden Waldorf School - National covid-19 outdoor learning initiative. Green Schoolyards America. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2022, from

Research has helped to identify some barriers and benefits of OLEs on educators. The quality of the work environment can help to tackle and lower the widespread and increased educator turnover and can even help reduce stress while educating. OLEs and environmental quality can also help engage educators which in turn offers higher instructional and learning quality for students. (Alondra Garcia/

This project focuses on studying how Outdoor Learning Environments (OLEs) can impact educator wellness, success, and their ability to relay source material in K-5 school settings. The project also explores the intersection of pedagogy and design to ensure the effective implementation and use of OLEs. (Alondra Garcia)