Middle School

We are committed to creating a seamless, whole child curriculum that moves between outdoor and indoor learning experiences with full utilization of our unique campus learning spaces.

- Villa Academy Outdoor Learning Committee


Middle School Outdoor Education

Villa Academy 31-acre campus, map with outdoor learning locations

Our 31-acre campus is unlike any other school in Seattle. Our diverse landscape includes grassy areas, a multi-purpose playfield, the school garden, orchards, deciduous and mixed forest areas, a wetland seep, riparian forest area bordering on Lake Washington, and waterfront access.

  • Villa Garden Learning Center garden and greenhouse

    Our garden is a living science lab, tended by students in grades K - 8.

    Our Garden Learning Center is the base of operation for many of our outdoor projects. It includes:

    • a greenhouse
    • a garage with tools and other supplies

    Sample Projects:

    SCIENCE - 8th Grade Plant Biology Projects - Independent, hands-on, open-ended, inquiry-based experiments designed by the students.

    8th Grade Biology Plants experiments

  • Villa's historic grotto

    Our historic Grotto, built in the 1930s and restored in 2015, is a secluded, shady stone structure surrounded by trees. It's the perfect spot for large and small group work as well as quiet reflection.

    Sample Projects

    HUMANITIES: Working in small groups, 6th grade students used evidence from the text (and materials they found in the woods) to recreate a scene from the novel Esperanza Rising.


  • Our orchard is more than a collection of fruit-bearing trees; it is an alternative play and learning space for our older students. In 3rd grade, Villa students are introduced to the orchard as an environment to explore.

  • Our 31-acre campus includes dozens of varieties of trees and shrubs, within distinct "zones". Our woods are an interactive learning space for a variety of purposes including science, math, and art.

    Sample Projects

    SCIENCE, HUMANITIES: 8th Grade "CSI: Villa" - 8th Grade students found, photographed, measured, and cast footprints found in the woods after working with Seattle Police Department officers to complete a grid search of the grotto and woods.

  • The Sanctuary is a secluded open space surrounded by trees. A series of log benches provide a seating area.

    Sample Projects

    HUMANITIES: 6th Grade Creative Writing & Peer Editing where quiet spots encourage creativity and offer inspiration for creative minds.

  • Our campus borders on Lake Washington with a natural lake shore of native plants. 

    Sample Projects

    SCIENCE, BUDDY PROGRAM: 8th grade Salmon Project - 8th graders raise coho salmon from eggs to fry that are released in the spring with their Kindergarten buddies.

    Kindergartners and 8th graders release coho salmon fry

  • Planning and construction is currently underway for the Villa Treehouse. This indoor, covered, elevated outdoor classroom was funded by the 2016 Auction Fund-a-Need and will be a platform for a new kind of learning.



Why Learn Outdoors?

  • Physical Benefits
    • Stimulating the senses
    • Decreasing stress
  • Cognitive Benefits
    • Increasing attention span
    • Creativity and problem solving (both academic and social-emotional learning)
  • Educational Benefits
    • Standards taught in a meaningful and retainable way
    • Authentic project-based learning
    • Ecological awareness
    • Seeds of stewardship
    • Connections to food and health (gardens)