Your child’s class will be using the outdoors as their classroom this year to learn how to care for themselves, others and the environment. We will be spending a few hours every week with the class outside. This time will enrich and support classroom learning and immerse students in the natural world.
Students will explore standards-based themes that will include (depending on the grade level): animal adaptations, life cycles, ecosystems, rocks and soil, scientific method, physical geography, mapping, cultural diversity, Vermont history (including native Vermonters), Vermont geography, and citizenship. This content will be presented through skill-based games, observing, journaling, building, drawing, and writing, tracking, and sharing stories.
It is Winter again! After that warm weather in February, I was getting ready for spring! March is going to allow us to play in the snow more! I was thinking about how our Outdoor Education program helps build resiliency in our students. Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. I was watching them climb up the hill in the forest and thinking about how far they have come from the fall. Some of them were timid about being in the forest and walking on the uneven ground. Now they are able to navigate up hills that have leaves, sticks, rocks, and fallen trees without worrying. They are aware of their surroundings and aware of themselves. They are resilient. This is an ability that we strive to instill in our youth. It is part of having a growth mindset and being able to bounce back from stressful situations. Other resilient qualities that our students are developing and improving on by being immersed in nature each week, are self-efficacy and self-confidence. These are Health goals that each student strives to meet as they grow. This just goes to show that being in a weekly outdoor education program is beneficial to students in many aspects of their lives. It covers goals and growth in Health, Phys ED, Science, Math, Art, and many more areas!
We will be continuing to go out and discover the forest in the snow. We will build snow forts, cook on the fire, learn about animals in the winter, and explore what nature is like when it is frozen and hidden under all this snow!
Bethel Outdoor Education Program
Winter is upon us! We are still going outside and enjoying Winter in the forest when the weather cooperates. Our students are learning a lot about animals in the winter through games about predators and prey. And we are all learning about how to walk through snow and maneuver around the frozen forest. It has been amazing to see the students grow into adventurous and curious explorers of the natural world. The 3rd and 4th grade class has been learning about mapping (one of their science units). In the forest camp they have been making maps with natural materials and challenging themselves to read each-others maps in order to find the hidden string. In the story I told to explain how to make a map, I talked about a squirrel hiding it's acorns for winter and making a map to remember where they were. In this mapping unit they were learning about landmarks, map reading, directions, and how to make a map that others could understand.
Also, all of the groups have learned how to make a fire using different types of sticks and bark. This winter we have made a fire to keep warm and to cook different types of food on. The latest has been cooking apples wrapped in aluminum foil in the coals. Not only do the students learn about science, but health topics are also mixed throughout each outside experience. All of the groups learn about being mindful of their actions and decisions, and of each other. We also take the opportunity to talk about and experience eating healthy snacks when we are cooking on the fire or simply sitting around it eating our own snacks.
Teaching students how to effectively communicate and listen intently is also a big part of this program. When we hear an animal or bird in nature everyone knows the cue to stop and practice how to really listen. They also get to share their observations about their surroundings with the group before we leave camp. Math is also a big part of our outdoor experience. The kindergarten and preschool classes use natural materials like sticks and rocks to practice sorting, shape recognition, and counting. Some of the games we play also incorporate learning math.
I am grateful to be working with so many adventurous and creative teachers, support staff, and parent volunteers. Everyone is very excited to be outside sharing in this wonderful experience with the students. It takes a team to make a forest an outdoor classroom. I look forward to many more adventures that await us.
Ms. Honey Bee/Ms. Purdy
Coordinator of the Bethel Outdoor Education Program
According to Erin K. Kenny in the book, Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way, When children are given the opportunity to be in nature regularly, they experience benefits to their physical (motor and sensory development), social, mental, emotional, moral, and cognitive development. Children benefit from being in nature in all seasons and in all types of weather. It helps them build a relationship with the natural world, as well as with themselves.
In a time when we have more opportunity within a day to be on an electronic device, it is really important to remember that when we are immersed in nature, we are connecting with ourselves on many different levels. Kenny explains that nature moves at a slower pace then we are used to, and it is calming and necessary in order to understand the world we live in beyond buildings, cars, and computers.
Since we started this program in September 2016, I have seen children of all ages grow and develop in many different ways. Some children are more balanced on their feet. Some are more capable of sitting in a circle and being attentive to a story. Some are more excited about the natural world and less scared of what they don't know about the forest. I have witnessed all of the children be very excited about having the opportunity to be in nature each week! Everything we do has the foundation of "The 3 cares" which are to take care of yourself (by wearing the appropriate clothing), take care of others (by making sure we are not harming anyone), and take care of the Earth (by not harming anything living). It is my hope that through this program, children learn how to be caretakers of the Earth and to be mindful of their decisions through out their life.
This Fall we had the 3 year old and 4 year old Preschool classes, two 3rd and 4th grade classes, and a high school class in this program. The kindergarten class is starting ECO now and the high school class is ending. Hopefully we will still have an opportunity for middle and high school students to help out with the program. Also, you may have heard your child talk about their "ECO" name. Each child has chosen a Vermont animal name. We use them when we are in ECO. The children know me as Ms. Honeybee (which is what my real name means). The teachers have names as well. It is a fun way to learn about different Vermont animals. Ask your child what their ECO name is! I look forward to spending much more time in the forest with your children.
Ms. Honeybee/ Melissa Purdy
Coordinator of the Bethel Outdoor Education Program