At Garrison Forest School, bravery is more than encouraged. It’s one of the school’s core values.
Sure, it’s all well and good to say that encouraging girls to “Be Brave” is part of the curriculum, but what does that look like on campus? For many GFS girls, (Garrison Forest is an all girls K-12 school in Owings Mills), they connect the concept of bravery with their outdoor learning and adventure experiences.
Even though school just started a few weeks ago, those adventures are already happening around campus. We had a chance to visit and listen to several students talk about learning outside. Here’s what they told us… and showed us.
Marlo and Bailey enjoy spending time in the school’s outdoor classroom. The innovative space opened in November 2016 and is adjacent to the Lower School playground. Designed by Nature Explore, a national leader in outdoor education, and Hord Coplan Macht, the Outdoor Classroom has “11 different multidisciplinary areas, which encompass art, science, music, engineering and more.”
“It’s a really good place because you can find so many hidden things,” said Marlo.
Bailey added that [they] “have so many things like the trees and the flowers to see and explore.”
That kind of exploration is exactly what faculty and administrators wants the space to foster.
“From the beginning, we wanted to provide a direct connection to nature that promotes a sense of wonder and an understanding of ecology and environmentalism in our students,” said Lower School science teacher Tracey Brocato.
Another Garrison Forest tradition? The power walk. Power Walk season at GFS begins with the start of school. Over the course of the academic year, every class in the Lower School and Middle School will walk close to 20 total miles over the school’s 110-acre (mostly wooded) campus.
“I like to run around and play tag with my friends,” said Quinn, a fourth grader. “I like to feel the outside air.”
The power walks aren’t just about exercise and life-long fitness. They are also opportunities for risk taking as the girls leave the path (literally) to climb and jump of obstacles.
You might be surprised to know that Garrison Forest offers riding and polo instruction (recent grads have been world class eventers!). Their program isn’t just about improving riding skills; it’s about ensuring riders become self-sufficient and do their own tacking up, grooming, and prepping for competition and daily riding.
“I like doing a posting trot,” Mahalia told us. “I like when Oreo bumps me with his nose; he is a very cute pony.”
We have to agree, Mahalia! Riders have the opportunity to be considered for the Equestrian team once they have completed sixth grade but instruction starts in the lower school.
Ponies aren’t the only animals you’ll find at Garrison Forest. You’ll also find chickens. In the student-designed chicken coops that the school community (parents, students, and faculty) built last spring.
“I like being outside and doing stuff with animals,” said Briana, as she fed the chickens. “It’s really fun!”
This article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about Garrison Forest School, visit their profile in our independent school directory. Photos by Laura Black.