To help kids reconnect to nature, many schools are incorporating outdoor learning by having them plant gardens, take hikes, or forecast the weather. And a select few are literally bringing their classrooms outside.
- "Forest kindergartens" like The Butterfly Garden in Cedar Park, Texas, and The Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, New York, allow kids to spend part of the day exploring in nature. Students go outside, rain or shine, cold or warm, and use the objects they find to create their own toys and artwork.
- At the Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education, in Alna, Maine, a majority of the pre-K through second-grade lessons take place outdoors year-round on the 42-acre campus of fields, woods, marshes, and gardens.
- The K-through-4 students at the Garlough Environmental Magnet School (GEMS), in West St. Paul, Minnesota, sometimes have their science, math, and technology lessons in "wonder learning stations," which include a tree-identification trail, a rain garden, and a "chamber of repulsion," where students can witness the process of decomposition.
- If there are no comparable outside-learning opportunities in your area, lobby your school to get kids out more. Also encourage administrators to contact Outdoor Classroom (outdoorclassroom.org), which can help principals implement customized programs.
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Parents magazine.