I developed my first real connections with the outdoors long before assuming my present role as the executive director of the Green Schools National Network. As a child on my aunt and uncle’s farm, I was moved by the magic of nature in many ways, but one experience in particular set me on my life’s path. One summer afternoon, on the roof of an old barn I had an epiphany of sorts. In that moment, I felt connected to everything: the past, present, and the future; the Earth and the sky; and the farmland and animals below. It was an exhilarating, magical moment, and has catapulted me to where I am today.
All children stand to benefit from exposure to natural environments. It is where they form their ecological identity, the emotional and cognitive foundations they need to care for and protect this great planet Earth. When children feel connected to the world around them, they are more eager to explore and discover, to have adventures and take risks, and develop a deeper understanding of and respect for the natural environment. Green schoolyards and outdoor classrooms can help make this happen.
One of the attributes that distinguish green schools from other 21st century schools is their commitment to providing developmentally appropriate and educational outdoor experiences to students so they develop a strong ecological identity. These experiences vary, but green schoolyards and outdoor classrooms provide teachers and students opportunities to engage in purposeful learning and service without having to leave school grounds. Here, buy ambien cheapest students can become scientists by conducting fieldwork and experiments to gain a better grasp of the natural world and how systems work. They can become farmers, reaping the harvest of school gardens and donating their crops to community members in need. Most of all, green schoolyards and outdoor classrooms invite students to be themselves: to explore, learn, and play in a setting designed just for them. As a result, students embrace these spaces as their own and take pride in caring for them, not just for the school but for the community too.
We have a great line-up of articles for you this month, including tips for starting your green schoolyard (including some key elements), ideas for celebrating Living Schoolyard Month and International School Grounds Month, and a professional development opportunity on outdoor classroom design and use. You will also learn how Prairie Crossing Charter School uses its Sustainable Schoolyard to educate its students, and how the recent Green Schools Conference and Expo brought green schoolyards to life. Finally, in our first-ever student authored article, you will read about how one Virginia Beach high school’s beekeeping club is teaching students about protecting the honey bee and giving back to the community.
I hope you take some time this month to bring your students outside and learn from the natural world around them. Green schoolyards and outdoor classrooms are wonderful (and wonderous!) resources that have the potential to spark a child’s imagination, and even his or her future life path.