Welcome to the

Lake Area Outdoor Classroom

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom provides an engaging and interactive learning experience in native Iowa habitats for area students and surrounding communities.

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom is a 2.5 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 provide pathways for a leisurely walk through tall grass prairie, woodland and wetlands. Welcome to the wonders of our natural environment.

About the Outdoor Classroom

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom has the renown status of being the first breeder site for the DNR and a school district in the state of Iowa since 1883. In 1994 the Iowa Department of Natural Resources began an effort to restore Trumpeter Swans to Iowa. A breeding pair of swans was placed on site. These trumpeters were donated by trumpeter swan partner Gary Barrett of Armstrong, Iowa. These swans laid 3 eggs, one of which hatched. Clear Creek Elementary School was built in 1998.

The fenced-in pond in the Lake Area Outdoor Classroom is a transitional site for holding swans temporarily. The swans are moved from site to site to release them into the wild. Over 150 different trumpeter swans have been on this site. Many of these swans come from our numerous nationwide partners from over 25 states including Alaska and dozens of zoos throughout the nation. The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom is a crucial part of the DNR’s trumpeter swan restoration effort, particularly as a transition site. Students at Clear Creek Elementary, as well as the Clear Lake community have been connected nationwide with the swan cooperators throughout the United States and Canada.

The Lake Area Outdoor Classroom features three main native Iowa habitats: the tall grass prairie, woodland, and wetland. The trumpeter swan, a native majestic bird, inhabits the pond along with Canada geese and other water fowl. Several native tree species line the property. Native prairie grasses and forbs welcome summer visitors with a variety of color. Over 150 monarch butterflies have been tagged by students since 2007. An asphalt path leads to the Boulder Classroom where you can sit and observe nature. The trail leads to the pond where you can watch the swans and other water fowl from the Observation Deck (an Eagle Scout project). Another trail leads through the trees where there is a foot bridge. In the winter of 2016, the western upper prairie was replanted with native prairie grass and flowers by third graders with a Monarch Mania grant through Lime Creek Nature Center in Mason City.

Become a Friend


  • 1985 - First proposal to the school board for already owned land to be used as an outdoor classroom.
  • 1986 - Pond was dug and first prairie was established
  • 1992 - First trumpeter swan hatched on site
  • 1998 - Redevelopment of Lake Area Outdoor Classroom
  • 10/12/1998 - Clear Creek Elementary opens
  • 11/06/1998 - Boulder Classroom constructed
  • 03/24/1999 - Certified as an official National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat
  • 03/29/1999 - Habitat Development Agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • 05/1999 - First prairie seeding
  • 06/1999 - Welcome Sign - Eagle Scout project - Ryan Wheley
  • 06/1999 - Asphalt path constructed - Heartland Asphalt
  • 10/1999 - Hibernaculum created - Eagle Scout project - James Rich
  • 02/2000 - Bat houses & butterfly house-Eagle Scout project-Jordan Hunchis
  • 05/2001 - Leopold Benches - Eagle Scout project - Eric Monson
  • 06/21/2001 - Featured on the Tour of Gardens
  • 05/2002 - DNR, AmeriCorp, community, & students plant native prairie forbs.
  • 01/06/2003 - Deepening of the Trumpeter Swan pond
  • 04/22/2003 (Earth Day) - First prairie burn
  • 05/12/2003 - Native prairie forbs planted
  • 06/02/2003 - Path development - Eagle Scout project - Wes Tremmel
  • 05/04/2004 - Native prairie forbs planted
  • 06/2004 - Tree identification path - Eagle Scout project - Steven Story
  • 08/2013 - Prairie excavated (hibernaculum removed)
  • 06/2014 - Weather Station & Web Camera installed on north end of the pond
  • Spring 2015 - Certified Monarch Mania Site
  • Spring 2016 - Prairie burn
  • Summer 2016 - goats brought to eat invasive trees & brush around the pond.
  • Winter 2017 - Clearing brush & trees from around the pond & on the island

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