Welcome to the

Lake Area Outdoor Classroom

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom will provide an effective outdoor learning environment of native habitats for area students and surrounding communities.

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom is a 2 1/2 acre outdoor learning center located adjacent to Clear Creek Elementary School in beautiful Clear Lake, Iowa. Designed to be used by people of all ages for the appreciation of nature, this site provides pathways for a leisurely walk through prairie, woodland, and wetlands. Welcome to the wonders of our natural environment.

About the Outdoor Classroom

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources began an effort to restore Trumpeter Swans to Iowa in 1995. In 1992, before Clear Creek Elementary was built, as well as much of the prairie restoration and other latest developments to the Lake Area Outdoor Classroom, a breeding pair of trumpeter swans was placed on site. These trumpeters were donated to us by trumpeter swan cooperator Gary Barrett of Armstrong, Iowa. Although unexpected, because of the late arrival of this breeder pair to this site, these swans laid 3 eggs, one of which hatched. The learning center has the renown status of being the first breeder site that both the DNR and a school district has had in the history of this state. The cygnet hatched is the first of over 600 swans that we have handled in the state restoration effort. That cygnet is currently with a breeder male on one of our partner sites in Buena Vista County.

The fenced-in Outdoor Classroom has become a transitional site for holding swans temporarily, as we move them from site to site to release them to the wild. I would guess that over 150 different trumpeters have been on this site over the past 8 years. Many of these have come from our numerous nation wide partners which includes over 25 states including Alaska and over a dozen zoos throughout the nation. The Outdoor Classroom has been a crucial part of the DNR’s trumpeter swan restoration effort, particularly as a transition site. Because of the trumpeter swan connection, students at Clear Creek as well as the Clear Lake Community have been connected nationwide with swan cooperators throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom features three main habitats: prairie, wetlands, and woodlands. With help from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources the trumpeter swan, a majestic bird, inhabits our pond during the spring, summer, and autumn months. Also, several species of trees line the property. Prairie grasses and native forbs welcome summer visitors with colors and delicate designs. One can walk along a woodchip trail or take rest on a Leopold bench. Better yet, a paved walkway leads to the Boulder Classroom where large rocks offer a quiet seat in the middle of the prairie. Birdhouses are scattered throughout the site, and several bat and butterfly houses have been installed. The western prairie contains a hibernaculum which is known to most as a rock pit/pile for reptiles of the area. Young and old enjoy a stroll over the bridge or perhaps the greater challenge of the tree trunk balance beam. Join the trail at the welcome sign or by the school sidewalk.

The newly dug out wetland with the swans thereon give us the opportunity to “Trumpet the Causes and Many Values of Wetlands,” not only for endangered plants and animals, but for flood reduction, and nature’s natural filters for many pollutants that pass through a watershed.

  • 1985 – First proposal to school board for already owned land to be used as an outdoor classroom
  • 1986 – Pond was dug and first prairie was established
  • 1992 – Trumpeter swan hatched at site
  • 1998 – Redevelopment of Lake Area Outdoor Classroom in conjunction with new school
  • 11/06/98 – Boulder Classroom constructed
  • 3/24/99 – Certified as an official National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat
  • 3/29/99 – Habitat development agreement with the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service
  • 05/99 – butterfly garden planted
  • 05/99 – Prairie reseeding
  • 10/99 – Hibernaculum created – scout project
  • 05/2002 – DNR joined with AmeriCorp, community, and students to plant native forbs
  • 01/06/2003 – Deepening of the Trumpeter Swan Pond
  • 04/22/2003 – First prairie burn on ’99 seeding, east prairie

Become a Friend

As a Friend of the Outdoor Classroom you will have the opportunity to promote and support environmental education.

Levels of Membership
$1 – Student
$3 – Individual
$5 – Family
$10 – Patron
$25 – Supporting
$100 & Up – Sustaining

Send your tax deductible contributions to:
Lake Area Outdoor Classroom
Clear Creek Elementary School
901 South 14th Street
Clear Lake, IA 50428