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The Perfect Classroom

Girl holding up a cup of river waterLearning environment can make or break it for kids. Too much going on can equal distraction for some, too little action can quickly mean boredom for others. One place I can always take my kids where the setting is just right is OUTSIDE! Nature surrounds us, and peace envelops us.  The colors, textures, sounds, and smells are all-natural and perfect. From emerald leaves to rushing water and jagged bluffs, nature offers just the right amount of visual stimuli. Bird songs and insect chirps provide music for our willing ears. Nature’s classroom is unlike any other. Without walls, kids can run and play, climb and jump. They have the freedom to find their own passions, to explore without constraint. And, there is always something to explore. My kids will dig in dirt for hours, build “forts” from whatever they find, catch fireflies, grasshoppers, toads and worms. And they are not unique in these endeavors. Kids naturally take to playing outside like birds to the air. You simply have to give them the time.  

Line breakNature’s classroom is unlike any other. Without walls, kids can run and play, climb and jump.

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Boy Fishing in RiverWe do a mix of guided nature lessons and free play. Probably a combination of about 25% lessons and 75% free time. The kids love to learn new skills like navigating with a compass or identifying birds, but they also need time to investigate on their own, often putting to use bits and pieces of the lessons we have studied. They love using the field microscope and binoculars as they pretend they are pirates or scientists. And for some reason the measuring tape gets pulled out more than any other item and used on trees, rocks, you name it. I love that they can be in charge of their learning through play and investigation the majority of the time. I also love that I get to be a part of it as an observer, teacher and learner. Yes, I learn from them, too.

While I highly recommend nature schooling for its engaging content, atmosphere and all around fun, it has benefits that transfer far beyond an appreciation for our natural environment. Nature schooling combines the best practices that teachers, both at home and in schools, should embrace. It is easily interdisciplinary, it encourages self-direction, and it combines play with learning. The best part is the skills discovered through nature schooling are valuable life-long skills.

Nature schooling supports:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Interdisciplinary studies
  • Physical fitness
  • Self-direction
  • Connectedness
  • Mindfulness
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Resourcefulness

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