Harrington's Big Backyard
The beautiful landscape and surroundings of Harrington School is home to our Big Backyard program, a series of nature walks on the Harrington property and adjacent conservation lands. These walks enhance the existing science curriculum in each grade and emphasize observation, questioning, problem solving and respect for the environment. The program is a unique partnership between parents and teachers to extend what students learn in the classroom into the outdoors. They have been enjoyed by a multitude of students for many years!
The program relies on parent volunteers to lead small groups of 4 to 6 students on walks outdoors during the year. At Harrington, Big Backyard parent volunteers organize the class walks for the year. Each walk is held during school hours and takes approximately 30-60 minutes. Big Backyard walks are great fun and provide a way for parents to support the classroom teachers and also interact with their own children.
No previous experience is necessary! First time parents are always welcome!
The Big backyard introduces each child to many aspects of the natural world while also enhancing skills of observation, asking good questions and proposing possible answers. Respect for the natural environment is emphasized throughout the program. Classes will explore fields, woods and other habitats on Estabrook School property. There are several walks scheduled throughout the year to observe seasonal changes and their affects on plants and animals.
Each grade has specifically designed walks tailored to their curriculum. Parent volunteers are instructed on how to lead each specific walk with the help of written guides and walk-through training on site. The program is overseen by the the K-5 Science Curriculum Coordinator and the District Big Backyard Coordinator, organized by the Harrington Big Backyard team and supported by classroom teachers and the Harrington PTA. The Big Backyard team is made up entirely of parent volunteers. Walks are scheduled based on the availability of the classroom teacher and the parent volunteers.
Each September, a general 2 hour town-wide training session is offered for volunteers interested in the program. This Basic Training includes a discussion of the basic principles of environmental science plus an introduction to the philosophy and essential activities of the Big Backyard nature study program. This basic training is optional and participants need only bring curiosity, an appreciation for the natural world and a desire to help children learn about the way the world works.
Check here for information on the next Basic Training session.
Grade Level Training
A pre-walk training is held at Harrington before each walk to familiarize volunteers with the walk route, highlight exciting discoveries, explain how to approach the goals and objectives of the walk and to demonstrate the use of any equipment to be used on the walk. It is strongly encouraged to attend the pre-walk training to insure volunteers are comfortable with the walk material and are aware of any last minute changes. Trainings typically take between 30-60 minutes and usually occur the day of the walk.
Inside the Classroom
Teachers integrate the Big Backyard experience by conducting pre and post walk activities in the classroom. Walks are scheduled to correspond with topics being covered in the classroom in order to enhance what the students are learning.