Posted by: principalsintraining | September 1, 2015

Trails, Rocks, Trees, Wind (Plus Lunch): 4 Elements of #OpenAirPD


When you take learning outdoors, you invite a new array of media to inform your thinking.

What do I do when I’m grown up? Do what you love. (Seen on the Steep Ravine Trail, Mount Tamalpais State Park)

At Hall Middle School, we began our first day of 2015/16 together mostly outside, hiking on the trails of Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve and centering our work around the following outcomes. We shared our thoughts, images and resources to #lcmschools and subsequently populated this blog post as an archive of our day of “Open Air learning.”

We began our day with this presentation (made on the free Adobe Slate app, a terrific tool for storytelling). Why did Principal Tom Utic and I decide to organize our Day One PD around a walk up a (small) mountain? Because we love the outdoors. Because the transition back from summer shouldn’t have our teachers sitting in a room for six hours. Because we had the same kind of experience for our administrative retreat a few weeks prior.


  • Welcome new faculty into our community and develop a sense of new identity
  • Create and share examples of how we make our values visible
  • Identify ways to make the Cougar Code an integral component of our culture
  • Explore Instructional Model as a vehicle for relevant, engaging instructional practice

Our sister sister Cove Elementary is situated at the foot of Ring Mountain, so we initiated our Walking PD out the front door. Bright sun, a bit of no-rain-in-recent-memory haze, and a slight breeze that kept things from getting uncomfortably warm. We walked in pairs or trios for stretches of 10-15 minutes at a time, each segment of our walk centered on one of the following questions at a time which we handed out on little strips of paper:

  1. Choose one of the values on the Cougar Code. Think about a valuable learning experience you’ve had with one of these values.
  2. What are ways we can ensure that these values are living throughout the campus and don’t become forgotten words on a poster?
  3. What are your hopes and fears about the Cougar Code?
  4. Share with with your group of 3-4 a line that resonated with you from the Minkel article. The people in your group comment on that line first. Then the one who picked the line shares their thoughts on why they chose it last.
  5. (Left purposefully blank – time for a quiet sensory walk)
  6. Of the five elements on the Instructional Model, where are you most proficient in your practice? Where would you need to focus attention for personal growth?



Sketch by Alexis Firsty, Art Teacher


Made with Phonto app by Principal Utic


PE teachers Dave Rembrandt, Steve Johnston and Debbie Wollman

We asked for feedback at the end of the day on a Google Form (Likes, Wonders, Next Steps) and asked everyone to describe the day in three words. Here is the word cloud from the three word prompt:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.03.55 AM




  1. […] I immediately thought about this as the perfect location for professional development. Much like #OpenAirPD, visiting a museum is a chance to invite new connections (between people, between ideas) by disrupt […]

  2. […] building, more time/opportunity for staff to learn from each other. Maybe you need to have a meeting outdoors. Suggest ideas for how they can gather formative feedback (most admin probably do not do this after […]

  3. […] PD day for teachers. Last year we took a big hike for most of the day. This year’s day one didn’t take us as far afield – but any […]

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