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Forest Kindergarten –– Steven Vandevere

For Kindergarteners, learning outside opens their eyes to the majesty of the outdoors. Everything is big to them. Everything is amazing. In our Christian setting that means we can make God amazing by teaching kindergarteners about Him through His nature. Having this time for two hours every day gives our students a regular connection to the outdoor world God has created for us. 

Kindergarteners will be learning when they are outdoors through hands on science lessons in the mud by the creek, hunting through the fields for animal tracks, and creating projects. These activities may seem like random fun but are actually shaped and molded to teach specific academic standards required for science, social studies and Bible. Outdoor learning balances with "textbook learning" perfectly. Textbook learning focuses on academic intelligence, but textbooks don't open up the other facets of growth that we are committed to here at Redwood–– social, mental and physical growth. By nurturing all four areas of a child's growth we are helping prepare them for more effective academic learning and healthier lives. 



Grades 1 & 2 –– Cora Clark

First and second grade students LOVE being outside. Their love of the outdoors is clearly evident from their comments and conversations, their body language, and simply their VERY VISIBLE joy when they are outside. Academic benefits which I have specifically observed in the classroom include:

  • Increased motivation
  • better overall behavior
  • enhanced social and communication skills: students enjoy working on joint collaborative projects in spaces that are not confining or restrictive
  • improved concentration: after spending time outside in meaningful activities students to the classroom much more settled and ready to focus.

In addition to their weekly 45-minute farm and agriculture lesson, my students spend between 30 and 90 minutes in academic time outside per week. Outdoor learning usually occurs in the afternoon with lessons structured to meet academic learning standards in science, social studies and Bible. While we will use a broad range of outdoor learning activities, some typical examples include: building and constructing models (e.g. of an insect, the solar system, a scene from history, Biblical or otherwise), forming and testing simply hypotheses (e.g. Will an ice cube in the sun melt faster if it is in a metal dish or a plastic dish?), writing and performing skits, and predicting and measuring (e.g. weather conditions such as rainfall).

During the mornings, we focus on rigorous academic instruction in math, reading and writing inside the classroom with a 20 minute outdoor mid-morning recess.  



Grades 3 & 4 –– Elisa Campbell

Outdoor education gives students the chance to roll up their sleeves and actively experience learning, rather than just passively observing lessons from their desks. The third and fourth grade class spends at least four lessons per week in an outdoor learning environment including agriculture and science lessons at What's Up Farm, and other subject area lessons in our outdoor learning spaces.

Our weekly outdoor classroom time gives students the perfect opportunity to bridge the theoretical concepts they have learned from their textbooks to practical real world applications in the great outdoors. Whether students are collecting rock samples by the creek to classify for science, choosing ideal pioneer settlement areas in social studies, or calculating the radius and perimeter of a decomposing tree stump, students are given the chance to apply what they've learned to the natural and physical world. In addition, many of our lessons integrate ideas, skills and technology across the curriculum using a project-based approach. For instance, students may write the script for a play about the experience of miners during the California gold rush, film the scenes by the creek, and then return to the classroom to edit their video on our Google Chromebooks.

The time my students spend outside doesn't take away from traditional learning approaches, it enriches them. Our students are still expected to master traditional learning standards. We still spend time solving math equations on the whiteboard, discussing book chapters in literature circles, and learning important scientific terminology in our textbooks. However, we will take advantage of every opportunity to do these activities while breathing fresh air and listening to the flow of the creek while we work. 



Grades 5 & 6 –– Ashley Martin

Studies have found that both indoor and outdoor learning complement each other to improve students' academic performance, particularly in science (Dhanapal 2013). Students also tend to be more motivated to participate when they are outdoors as they are provided with many opportunities to observe and make real-life connections to the curriculum. It is crucial that students in fifth and sixth grade develop a positive attitude toward science during this time because it has been found that students' career goals and scientific interests are largely formed by the age of thirteen (Lindahl 2007).

My students will be learning outside the classroom at least three times a week. These experiences will be used to enhance the curriculum and reinforce learning in reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies and science rather than replace them. Students will spend one weekly class period with Farmer Joby at What’s Up Farm. They will also have a weekly science application day, spending science time completing guided outdoor inquiries that correlate with what they are learning in their textbooks. We will also have at least one outdoor journal prompt a week giving our students the chance to write about an observation from the world around them.

***I'd like to conclude with something that brings in technology use in the classroom and reinforces the 3Rs (akin to, but not the same as, Cora's or Elisa's conclusions).



Grades 7 & 8 –– Donna Oft

Outdoor education provides another avenue for me to (individualize?) differentiate instruction in order to meet the diverse learning styles of my students. It particularly appeals to kinetic learners, although research documents the benefits of being outdoors for all students. Those benefits include improved memory, decreased depression,  increased ability to concentrate. 

Our seventh and eighth grade students have at least two outdoor class experiences per week. One of these is with What's Up Farm. The other weekly class period will focus on a current topic of study and will include using the outdoors for instruction, or taking a field trip related to the topic of study. For example, when we are studying life science and plants, many opportunities for outdoor, hands-on learning arise including observing photosynthesis, plant adaptations and plant classification. In the areas of earth and space we learn about atmosphere, weather and climate. This presents opportunities for students to build and set up a rain gauge, wind sock, and/or a barometer; collect data on rain fall, wind direction and air pressure; and practice math concepts using the data for tracking and recording trends with graphing.

***I'd like to conclude with something that brings in technology use in the classroom and reinforces the 3Rs (akin to, but not the same as, Cora's or Elisa's conclusions).

What's Up Farm ––

Still need input from Jobe


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