Over 25 years ago, The Living Classroom Learning Lab was born. What was initially a garden at Monroe Elementary School where children there had the opportunity to connect with nature while at school, The Living Classroom evolved into a k-5 multidisciplinary, arts integrated, environmental education curriculum based on Next Generation Science and Common Core Standards. The driving force behind The Living Classroom Learning Lab and pioneer in environmental education was Danette “Danny” B. Riehle. She created this award winning curriculum with the expressed intent to reconnect children with nature and learn through hands-on experiences, the intricacies, interdependencies, and mysteries that exist in their natural world. Her lessons guide children to understand the importance of being caretakers of their Earth in order to preserve present and future ecosystems.
Danette “Danny” B. Riehle, M. Ed (1941-2022) founded the Living Classroom. Danny was an environmentalist, artist, scholar and avid horticulturist. She taught at Monroe Elementary School for over 30 years, presented at both the National Science Teachers & National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conferences from 1988-1991 and Co-Authored the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project Everyday Math Curriculum for 1st & 2nd Grade. Her passion for nature emanates in the environmental education curriculum she developed based on the gardens she built alongside volunteers. She was a magical, master teacher who inspired her students to achieve their true potential. By the very nature of her presence and engagement in her personal and professional life, she made a profound and positive impact on her family, community and school.
Danny’s dying wish was to finish the work she began and improved upon for the last 28 years - The Living Classroom Learning Lab.
Danny’s legacy is being carried on by her family. Years before she passed, her son, Andrew J. Riehle, became Danny’s Living Classroom Technical Director and her daughter, Danette K. Riehle M. Ed., became her Co-Author and Curriculum DIrector. We are ensuring that her life’s work endures. In addition, children who first experienced these lessons in Danny’s Living Classroom at Monroe are working to expand it into other schools across the country.
Although our lessons are based on gardens, a garden is not necessary for the learning gained by our curriculum. We know that Nature can be found in any place you may be - urban, suburban or rural. The Living Classroom is all around you in nature. With Danny’s curriculum, children venture out of the classroom to experience their sense of place which results in the connection of their learning in nature with that in the classroom, and they flourish in outcomes.
Our lessons have been purposefully crafted to use recyclable materials and ordinary classroom supplies, so that anyone can deliver our engaging, experiential learning to every child regardless of their environment. Our lessons are unique and adaptable to anyone and anywhere. Learning styles are not an afterthought in this curriculum. Our activity based outdoor learning accommodates many challenges like those presented by neurodivergence, learning disabilities, and mental health issues. Trailblazing the way, Danny began addressing “nature deficit disorders, the importance of children’s…exposure to nature for their health,” more than a decade prior to Richard Louv coining the term and later became an Audubon Medal recipient.*
Since 1994 in the suburbs of Chicago, Danny Riehle’s environmental education has helped Monroe School increase academic achievement. Monroe School became a National Blue Ribbon School in 2016 and Danny’s Living Classroom Learning Lab was showcased in Washington, D.C. Then in 2018, Monroe School was named a Green Ribbon School for its innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, again thanks to Danny’s Living Classroom lessons.
Danny Riehle’s Living Classroom impact does not stop there. We have just been accepted to present at the North American Association of Environmental Education Conference this July 2023. We are honored and excited for the opportunity to reach a larger audience with our curriculum and to share her passion.
In order to prepare for the conference and to continue teaching our future environmentalists, we need your assistance and generosity.
Our initial goal of $65,000 will assist us with this tremendous undertaking. While we already have an unmatched immersive environmental curriculum, we need your contributions to complete Danny’s vision. There are 42 printed units and over 200 lessons to convert to website accessible lessons, development of video lessons and new content to write. Every cent we receive will catapult us on our way to spreading climate-first education and leading today's children into a future of living sustainably with their Earth.
Our hope is that you support this extraordinary endeavor, either by donating directly or by helping spread the word to others who share the same values.
Your support is key in obtaining this goal.
Please help us to fulfill Danny’s dream to deliver excellence in environmental education with her Living Classroom Learning Lab.
*(Louv 2005, richardlouv.com)