ROANOKE COUNTY – A group of middle school students is learning about life science in nature at Northside Middle School in Roanoke County.
"It's a lot of fun being out here in nature. It's nice knowing that we'll be saving a lot of animals," said Jennifer Tran, a Northside 7th grader.
Their life science class is learning about bats, the world around them and taking care of a garden.
"Bats are not really bad. They don't want to hurt you or anything. They're actually really nice. They eat fruits and insects. They don't want humans," said Tran.
"This is what they are inheriting and I would love for them to be able to understand what's happening around them and to be able to enjoy it and not just walk with their cellphone or their iPad in their hands," said Karen Perry, a Northside Middle School teacher.
Perry started this outdoor classroom three years ago, when students put in bat houses. It's now grown to gardens and an outdoor classroom that other teachers can use.
Every semester the students come up with another aspect they want to add to the garden and leave it to the next class. These teams are coming up with new plans for walkways and gardens.
"I think it's a more authentic learning. We're sitting in a classroom for 90 minutes and I just don't think teaching science should come from a book. I think they should be doing science and that's what I truly believe in," said Perry.
"I think it's fun because it gets us outside and out of the classroom and out of the stuffy rooms. We can get fresh air and stretch instead of just sitting in there and doing work," said Bryce McGuire, a Northside 7th grader.
Perry says she's always surprised what the students come up with. The hope is that the project at Northside Middle School becomes a community garden for more classes to learn from and enjoy and more teachers use the outdoor classroom.