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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

A rendering illustrates plans for an outdoor classroom  to serve Northwest's Horace Mann Laboratory School and community.

A rendering illustrates plans for an outdoor classroom to serve Northwest's Horace Mann Laboratory School and community.

Nov. 8, 2017

Northwest receives grant to support innovative outdoor classroom

Northwest Missouri State University recently was awarded a $93,336 grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, bringing the University another step closer to constructing a new outdoor classroom for its Horace Mann Laboratory School.

With the grant award, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Land and Water Conservation Fund agrees to fund half of the total project costs, and Northwest will fund the remainder of the project, which will total about $187,000.

The outdoor classroom will be located inside a newly fenced area directly north of Everett W. Brown Education Hall, which houses Horace Mann and the Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families. Northwest anticipates completing the project in fall 2018.

“The outdoor classroom dovetails with the direction the University is moving toward profession-based learning opportunities,” Dr. Tim Wall, the dean of Northwest’s School of Education said. “The outdoor classroom is an integral component of how the Horace Mann and University faculty will mentor future teachers and leaders. If we want our teacher candidates to develop and implement truly outstanding lessons that reach young learners, then we need to invest in spaces that reflect first-class learning opportunities.”

Plans for the outdoor classroom call for a recreational space unlike any other in Maryville or the northwest Missouri region. With a focus on curriculum-driven outdoor education, health and wellness, and environmental stewardship, the outdoor classroom will be designed as a next-generation space that goes beyond a single sport or activity.

It will include curriculum-driven centers focused on nature art, outdoor music and messy materials; a stage for creative play, arts creation and integration; and a gathering space suited for outdoor class sessions. Other unique features will include a climbing structure, slide, swing and hammock as well as a 1/10th mile walking-running path. Rain barrels, gardening tools and child-sized wheelbarrows included in the project concept will encourage sustainable stewardship of the space. Native grasses will separate learning spaces and tie with the natural beauty of the Northwest campus, which also serves as the Missouri Arboretum.

“Playing and learning outdoors supports not only physical development but intellectual, emotional and behavioral as well,” Horace Mann Principal Sandy Seipel said. “We want Horace Mann children and Northwest students to have an outdoor learning space that increases curiosity, exploration and enthusiasm for the outdoors and for teacher candidates to think about ways to bring learning opportunities outside of the classroom. We are excited to have a beautiful outdoor learning space that stays true to Northwest’s natural surroundings and to help our children and Northwest students develop a sense of responsibility for nature and the environment.”

All of the outdoor classroom’s features will adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring all individuals may enjoy the park. The space also will be available for use by community members when it is not in use by Horace Mann students and staff.

Northwest engaged the Nature Explore company to design the outdoor classroom, which replaces equipment the University removed last summer to make room for an expansion of its Frank Grube Tennis Courts as a result of the construction of the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse on the west side of the University campus.

Wall credited Seipel, Leet Center Director Cindy Rouner and Grants Coordinator Tye Parsons for their work to apply for the grant. Representatives of the Horace Mann Parent Advisory Council, the Regional Council of Governments, and the Maryville Parks and Recreation Department as well as state Rep. Allen Andrews also submitted letters in support of the project. Northwest received the grant in 2014 to partially pay for another outdoor classroom that serves the Leet Center.

“This project represents collaboration, ingenuity and vision in challenging economic times,” Wall said. “When we realized the existing Horace Mann playground was to be removed due to expansion of the tennis facilities, a team sprang into action to find a way to help provide a playground and learning space for Horace Mann students. This team took input from students, parents and University administrators representing the School of Education, School of Health Science and Wellness, and Facilities Services leaders.”


About Horace Mann Laboratory School

Horace Mann places an emphasis on innovative and interactive teaching practices accompanied with individualized instruction by dedicated and caring faculty as well as staff and administrators.

While the laboratory school benefits from Northwest programs and activities, the school also employs Project Lead the Way, a project and problem-based curriculum that includes science, technology, engineering and math in an engaging, rigorous and relevant format that is innovative and builds critical thinking skills.

As a laboratory school, Horace Mann is a clinical teaching environment for students in Northwest’s School of Professional Education. The relationship between master teachers, practicum teachers and graduate assistants allows Horace Mann students to reap the benefits of low student-to-teacher ratio in classrooms that implement innovative teaching practices and provide learning experiences designed to stimulate each child's creative learning abilities and problem-solving skills.

For more information about Horace Mann, visit Interested parents may also contact Seipel by phone at 660.562.1234 or by email at

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468