The Outdoor Classroom: Experiential Learning

“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.”
To view a recording of our information evening CLICK HERE.

Educators increasingly are searching for meaningful learning experiences to authentically meet the diverse needs of young people in their care. The “Outdoor Classroom: Experiential Learning” is a well-developed pedagogical approach and practiced by some educators; and there is a great interest in knowing more about its basis and implementation. 

John Lawry is a leader in assisting schools with developing and embedding the Outdoor Classroom in their daily practice.

Each session will begin with John’s presentation of his insights into the Outdoor Classroom. You are asked to read a prescribed text each week, and to share your experiences and thoughts in the discussion session following his lecture.

There will also be practical activities focused around craft/garden projects to complete as part of the learning in this course. 

A list of readings will be sent to enrolled participants and most of these will be available from our student portal.


Key aspects:

  • Practical ways to cultivate health, balance and well-being for students by means of experiential based, hands-on learning strategies which enhance their connection to nature.
  • Links with the environment as an agent in learning and teaching.
  • Skills and strategies to develop practical hands-on activities which are site-specific, age-appropriate and low cost.
  • How to conduct a site survey to identify resources and develop sustainable resourcing practices.
  • Confidence in how to match literacies of making and growing (craft and gardening practices) with developmental needs to support healthy, holistic integrated learning.
  • Develop an Outdoor Classroom: Experiential Learning Curriculum appropriate to your learning community.

Course overview

This course in Outdoor Classroom: Experiential Learning unfolds over six fields of meaning‑seeking and meaning‑making.

Week 1: The need for a new pedagogy

Participants will study and discuss the scope and purpose of Outdoor Classroom: Experiential Learning concepts and strategies as a learning initiative.

Week 2: Connection – we find our completion in Nature and Nature finds her completion in us

Participants will learn practical ways to cultivate health, balance and wellbeing for students by means of experiential, sensory integration strategies and out-of-doors protocols, which enhance connection with Nature and awareness of our interdependent relationship(s) with Nature.

Week 3: A sense of place (genus loci).

Participants will learn how to conduct site surveys and narrative mapping, to identify resources and develop sustainable resourcing practices and learning contexts.

Week 4: Why craft and gardening? The literacy of the will.

  • Confidence in how to match the literacies of MAKING and GROWING (craft and gardening practices) with developmental needs to support healthy, holistic integrated learning.

Week 5: Putting it all together.

  • The “Who, What, Where, Why and How” of it all.
  • “Do, Reflect, Apply” (the experiential learning processes of critical and empathetic enquiry).
  • Teaching Rhythms.
  • The Seven Stages of Learning.
  • Being up for the “Teachable Moment.”
  • Curricula / Maps of meaning.

Week 6: Reflective practice.

  • Reflective practice is an essential strategy in developing a new pedagogy and developing confidence. As a regular process it will help participants digest experience and establish practical knowledge: what works, what not to do.  It supports comprehension of reference material concepts and their practical application. It is also a process which engenders meta‑cognitive insights (learning how one learns) gained during the creation and assembly of participants’ Craft and Gardening portfolios.
  • Developing a sense of place and the sensibilities to be responsive to place is a subtle and mature learning process. Reflective practice helps provide the “on” and “off” line awareness and consciousness required.
  • Insights gained are to be recorded, plotted and narrative mapping used to produce a web of connected meaning through participants keeping a reflective diary. It will be a record of learning and practical achievements, as they develop.
  • Reciprocal learning is a key learning strategy in Outdoor Classroom – Experiential Learning theory and practice. The course provides a context and opportunity for participants to develop a supportive learning community and share learning resources for their school / learning community.

Week 7:

Review and sharing of portfolio work.


Tutor: John Lawry

Educator, Bachelor of Education, Master craftsman

John was born in New Zealand and has been an artisan and educator for five decades.

“My formative years, helping my father (an architect) and grandfather (a carpenter) build our house, establish gardens and an orchard, being nurtured by my mother and grandmother’s attentive care and comprehensive self-sufficient skills (cooking, sewing, knitting) by which they made our house a home, or playing in the bush where my life-long love of bushcraft was born, are infused with the rich colours of music-making and storytelling.

I trained and qualified as a teacher but chose to take a year in solitary retreat to focus on sculpture, poetry and Zen practise. The following years were occupied learning and practising crafts. I then completed a two-year in-depth, in-service training as a Steiner teacher, leading to roles as a general class teacher for 16 years, and also in the High School Fine Arts and Hard Materials Technology.

In 2010, a confluence of my life-long immersion in craft and education occurred when, inspired by Bernard Graves, I began the process of establishing and developing, at Michael Park Steiner School, the Outdoor Classroom’s comprehensive curriculum gardens, lower-school craft / experiential skills-based curriculum, its integration into H/S Technology, an intensive Masterclass Craft program and camps.

Word spread: tasks multiplied; Outdoor Classroom teacher training courses, consulting, presenting workshops and papers and organizing conferences ensued. I “retired” from full-time teaching at the end of 2016 and established “Artisan Pathways “to run workshops, travel and consult in New Zealand and Australia and garden more.

Practical information

This course takes place online every Monday evening from 7.00pm-9.00 pm.

Sessions will be recorded and uploaded to the student portal to view for the duration of the term.

You will need a computer (not a mobile phone) with sufficient internet bandwidth and a camera to join in on Zoom.

Cost: $445

Enrolment enquiries: Carmen on 03 9876 5199.


Term 1 dates

Monday 13th February -Monday 27th March 2023.

Note this schedule includes the Monday, 13th March, of the Labor Day long weekend.


Withdrawing and refunds

If you wish to withdraw from a course, please send an email to

·         If you withdraw prior to a course beginning we will refund any fees paid, less a $100 administration fee.

·         If you withdraw after the first session of the course, we will refund any fees paid, less a $155 administration and withdrawal fee.


·         If you withdraw after the second week, no refunds can be given.

To register

 Click the button below.