Outdoor nature schools, wilderness survival skills courses - Test Out

Categories: Swiss Army Credit Card Knife | Author: admin 16.04.2013

Inspired by new research that shows contact with nature may be as important for children as good nutrition and sleep, schools across America, from Arizona to Pennsylvania are replacing boring pavement and playground equipment with outdoor classrooms.
Through a partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, a growing number of schools are changing this poor excuse for recess into a chance for kids to freely explore the outdoors. It’s hoped that by helping more schools bridge the gap between nature and learning, it will increase positive interaction with peers, while reducing childhood obesity and increased reliance on behavior-regulating medicines. The stats are pretty staggering: as many as 11% of school-aged children in the country have been diagnosed with ADHD since 2011. Democratic schools are sometimes called Free Schools, but usually, they’re one and the same philosophy-wise. Christian Phillips PhotographyFour years ago, the nurse at Boston's Young Achievers School was overwhelmed.
That changed when a group called the Boston Schoolyard Initiative began a community planning process to build a new playground and outdoor classroom at the school. Young Achievers is just one of the 88 schools the schoolyard initiative has renovated since it began bringing green space to urban schools in 1995. I talked to teachers at a handful of schools to find out how the outdoor facilities have affected everything from science curriculums to behavior management.
When the Boston Schoolyard Initiative begins the process of creating an outdoor space, they start by talking to the community about the wants and needs of their teachers and students.
For the Mendell School, Klopfer Martin Design Group incorporated several features, like a lab workspace and planting beds, into the school playground. Klopfer Martin Design GroupThe school's science specialist Elizabeth Hadley uses the arbor with a pulley system to teach her fifth grade students about simple machines.
Klopfer Martin Design GroupThe outdoor space has also become integral to Hadley’s work with a diverse student body. These outdoor experiences can be especially crucial for ESL students, who can use new science vocabulary in its context.
Christian Phillips PhotographyAt the Young Achievers School, administrators had to create a space to accommodate an influx of younger students when the school went from being a 6-8 middle school to a K-8 school.
During a unit on ancient civilizations, sixth-graders use the outdoor classroom as an archeological dig.
Christian Phillips PhotographyUsing the outdoor space has had other benefits for the students. Klopfer Martin Design GroupThe Mason School outdoor classroom is used for everything from insect gathering to watercolor painting.


Maureen WhiteAs an arts-focused school, the Edison School looked to create an outdoor space that could extend arts work outside of the classroom. Maureen WhiteWhen nearby elementary and middle schools merged, Driscoll took the unusual step of mandating outdoor recess for her middle school students. The Boston Schoolyard Initiative has reclaimed 130 acres of asphalt and reached more than 30,000 children in Boston. Cedarsong, on Vashon Island, is based on the German model of Waldkindergartens, or outdoor preschools. This school is run through the Shoreline Parks Department, using Shoreline Parks as their classroom, so kids are constantly exploring different environments. Children in this Bothell program learn about nature and food and get to nibble edible plants from the forest and the garden. At Natural Start, they balance nature education with with traditional kindergarten prep activities.
In addition to drop-off preschools, there are several nature programs for tots and their caregivers that run year-round. This school focuses on exploring the Arboretum using your senses, and includes visits to the vegetable garden.
In addition to their outdoor preschool, Fox in the Forest offers “Parent Child Adventures” on Thursday mornings for parents and children to explore together. Terra Nova Nature School offers educational programs for children and families in an outdoor setting using an emergent and place- based curriculum. Full of greenery, these unique natural playgrounds from Nature Explore give urban kids a chance to relax and re-connect with nature, while supporting vital aspects of early childhood development. Previously a middle school, Young Achievers had recently become a K-8 school and there was no appropriate space for recess. Through its partnership with the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative, BSI has developed, designed, and constructed outside space at every feasible elementary and K-8 Boston public school. For example, the logs in the outdoor classroom are used as balance beams during recess and the decking is used as a stage or as a fort. Seventh-graders study land geology and use the rocks in the outdoor classroom to look at the chemical processes of what weathers rocks. Hoppin said teachers have noticed students are more curious about learning after using the outdoor classroom.
One teacher at the school has partnered with The Food Project to plant vegetables in the gardens and teach students about where food comes from.


Principals claim the schoolyards have improved student behavior, promoted exercise, and improved relations with parents and the community. To answer this question, I'll focus on 38 families I met and interviewed who have at least one elementary school-age daughter currently involved in competitive chess, dance, or soccer. Now, nearly everybody who graduated from the high school here in June is off to a four-year college, a community college, or a technical school.
With proper clothing, children can thrive in an outdoor environment, no matter the weather. Rather than provide commercial toys with a predefined purpose, children in this program play with items found or fashioned from objects in nature. They hold story-time in an impressive 18 foot tipi (pictured below!). Located at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center in Bellevue, children go on daily explorations of the 320 acre nature park. Terra Nova Nature School is inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia and the Forest School movement. The Nature Explore program offers outdoor classroom design services as well as field-tested components that support children’s interests and creativity. Then they learn about the agricultural practices of Native Americans while planting a Three Sisters Garden in the outdoor classroom. Jose Rosa, another teacher at Mason School, uses the outdoor classroom to show teach his students about organisms in nature.
In the school’s first year, Driscoll started a trial run fifteen minute recess block for middle schoolers. The result is a natural learning area that immerses children in a living environment where they’re introduced to gardening, bugs and animals, design and architecture, and even music in a way that just seems like play.
Children in urban schools often take recess in playgrounds built on blacktop — uninspiring swings and slides surrounded by traffic and a chain-link fence. Probably too many times to count. So throw on your rain gear, open your mind, and check out some of the nature-based preschools taking root in Seattle.



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