Outdoor Classrooms

Outdoor Classroom Program

The NRD’s Outdoor Classroom Programs were developed to provide funding to promote the education of our natural resources through hands-on learning.  Funding is provided through three types of grants: Outdoor Classroom, Community Grants, and Mini-School Grants (applications below).

Providing lessons in nature ensure that children today are growing up with meaningful daily connections to nature. When children spend time in nature-filled outdoor learning environments, research shows that conflict is replaced by pleasant and positive exploration.

Central Platte NRD provides up to $2,500 per school per year with matching funds/labor required for requests over $500. Outdoor Classroom Grants totaling less than $500 require no matching funds. Grants totaling $500-$2,500 require matching funds amounting to 50% of the grant over $500. While finding other funding sources is encouraged, schools and organizations may use their labor involved in the project to satisfy part or all of the matching fund requirement.

Projects that provide awareness about water, soil, wildlife, forestry, grassland, and other environmental connections are eligible. Funds can be requested by teachers and administrators for materials needed to create or expand an outdoor classroom site on school grounds. Appropriate expenditures of funds may include: rain gardens, rain barrels, butterfly/pollinator gardens, seeds, bulbs, live plants, trees, native grasses, wetland or pond habitat, bird/wildlife feeders, identification signs, etc.


The Community Grants Program is to promote water, soil, wildlife, forest, grassland conservation and environmental awareness. Community organizations may request up to $2,000 to provide natural resources awareness to the public or youth. This is a competitive grant and may be applied for at any time. NRD boundaries include all of Dawson County and parts of Frontier, Custer, Buffalo, Hall, Howard, Nance, Merrick, Hamilton Platte and Polk counties in Nebraska.

Community organization and/or non-profit groups may request funds to help with costs to promote indoor/outdoor conservation projects, presentations, print materials, activity materials, educational resources, etc. The Community Grant requires no matching funds. The methods used to promote environmental and conservation awareness and a timeline to meet your goal(s) must be included in the application.


The Mini Classroom Grant provides $35 to classroom teachers for natural resources classroom activities, field trips, etc. Additional funding is available for environmental education activities and projects.


Barr Middle School, Grand Island NE.
This classroom is a great example of how outdoor classrooms can be small, yet effective. The school's Roots & Shoots Club developed and maintains the outdoor classroom. Teachers utilize the site to provide a natural environment to study English Language Arts, Science and many other activities.

Outdoor Learning Area

The Grand Island Groundwater Guardian’s Outdoor Learning Area located at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Grand Island, Nebraska, is designed to provide an attractive greenscape area while also providing educational opportunities regarding one of our most precious resources — groundwater.  The area is open to the public year-round.  It’s a great place for field trips by providing a stimulating place for play, learning, and environmental education– particularly water education. Local educators have used the area to educate students about butterfly migration, GPS technology, and native plants.  The Outdoor Learning Area is available year-round to allow educators and the public an educational, leisurely place to enjoy nature. See new features including a groundwater monitoring well...

Learn more about the Outdoor Learning Area at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds