Nature Trail and Outdoor classroom

The purpose of this project was to provide a green space and outdoor classroom for students to connect with the natural world and experience first-hand ecosystem interactions. 

Nature Trail and Outdoor Classroom Project Overview

Project: Nature Trail and Outdoor Classroom 

Location: Marion C. Moore School, 6415 Outer Loop, Louisville, KY 40228

Budget: Dependent upon grants, donations, crowdfunding, and fundraising events

Participants: Students in the Middle and High School Environmental Science Programs and the Environmental Club


The Nature Trail and Outdoor Classroom were designed and implemented at Marion C. Moore School in Louisville, Kentucky. The purpose of this project was to provide outdoor education space for teachers and students to utilize that will teach about environmental science, ecology, and conservation practices. The nature trail and outdoor classroom are used for educational purposes to teach students about ecosystems and ecosystem interactions, native plants, plant-pollinator interactions, pollinator life cycles, conservation practices, and habitat restoration. It is used to make observations for science classes and to conduct laboratory activities, experiments, and surveys. 

The nature trail and outdoor classroom provide a relaxing green space that can be used by teachers of all subject areas who want to implement nature-based or environmental education into their subject matter material. It may also be used by teachers of different subject area classes as a teaching tool. The garden will also be used by extended school services such as after-school and summer programs. There are over 1500 students ranging in age from 10 to 19 years old who will have access to the nature trail and outdoor classroom spaces, along with over 100 faculty members. 

Creating the Nature Trail

What started as an unused wooded corner of campus full of trash and furniture dumped over the years, became a beautiful oasis. The nature trail provides not only a place to study ecosystems, but serves as a sanctuary where students can relax to the sound of the stream, connect with nature, and discover the world around them.

The nature trail was carved out of the woods, following down one side of a stream and back up the other side. Students removed invasive honeysuckle and brambles to create a path. Then, thousands of pounds of mulch were laid down by "the bucket brigade" using five-gallon buckets and wheelbarrows.

Students in the Middle and High School Environmental Science Programs and the Environmental Club spent hundreds of hours over the course of several years working on first the nature trail, and then other aspects of the outdoor classroom space. Additions to the outdoor classroom include the birdwatching station, stream study area, native plant nursery and arboretum, butterfly garden, fruit and vegetable gardens, and eventually greenhouses. 

Students moved thousands of pounds of mulch in buckets and wheelbarrows

The mulch was carried into the forest and placed on the trail as it was cleared

Earth Day Nature Trail Grand Opening

Students, faculty, and families came together to celebrate Earth Day and the grand opening of the Nature Trail, complete with a visit from United States Congressional Representative, John Yarmouth, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, student-led service projects, and a community nature walk on the trail. This event recognized and honored all of the planning, hard work, and dedication that went into creating the nature trail for the school community.

Students participating in an invasive species removal project to eradicate invasive honeysuckle

Conservation Projects

Invasive Species Removal: Students participated in a series of invasive species removal projects. These included extensive removal of nonnative honeysuckle bush that had become established and taken over a vast area, removal of Bradford pear trees, removal of garlic mustard, and other common invasive plants.

Meadow Restoration: Students collected seeds from native plants and ordered seeds for native grasses and flowers to restore an area of meadow on school property that had been being mowed for decades.

Forest Restoration: Students planted native trees in and around the wooded area in which the nature trail was built, and replaced invasive trees with native species.

Tree Planting: Students planted native trees around campus to increase biodiversity, beautify the campus, and add shaded areas for students to enjoy.

Native Plant Nursery: Students grew and tended to a native plant nursery, plants were used in restoration projects and campus landscaping projects.

Arboretum: Students grew and tended to native trees, which were used in restoration projects and planted around campus.

Campus Cleanups: Students participated in campus clean-up efforts by picking up trash on campus and along roadways.

Stream Studies: Students survey the stream for macroinvertebrate indicator species, look for signs of pollution, and clear trash from in ad around the waterway. 

Biodiversity Surveys: Students perform biodiversity surveys to determine the species richness and species diversity of an area of forest, stream, or meadow habitat.

Botanical Surveys: Students perform botanical surveys to identify native and invasive plant species and to determine the species richness and species diversity of an area.

Air Quality Testing: Students perform environmental monitoring sampling to collect data regarding differences in air quality in different areas of the school campus, such as the bus loading dock, near the main roadway, and in the forest.

Water Quality Testing: Students perform a variety of analyses to determine the health of a stream and the quality of the water.

Habitat Restoration 

Students planted trees that they grew and cared for to restore the forest habitat and replace invasive species that were removed

Biodiversity Surveys & Stream Study

Community Science Projects

Air Quality Testing with GO3, GO3 Treks, and AQ Treks

Water Quality Testing with Earth Echo Water Challenge

Monarch Tagging Program with Monarch Watch

Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count

Audubon Society Bird Census Program

Student-led community science projects

Birdwatching Station

Bird-watching: Students participated in bird-watching activities using binoculars, field guide books, and smartphone apps to identify birds

Building Bird Houses: Students designed, built, and decorated birdhouses to place in the bird-watching area of the outdoor classroom. Students also created bird houses out of dried gourds that were grown in the school garden.

Making Bird Feeders: Students created a variety of bird feeders to hang in the bird-watching area of the outdoor classroom. Additional feeders and suet cages along with suet blocks and bird seed were purchased with crowdfunded money and other donations. 

Building Bird Blinds: A student-led Eagle Scout project, the bird blinds were designed and built by students with donated materials under adult supervision.

Students practiced identifying birds using field guides, using smartphone apps to identify bird calls, and by creating illustrations of migrating birds