Have you ever noticed that during a fast-paced day, where things seem a little chaotic, something as simple as a short walk in the woods can bring a little perspective? You’re not alone. Research has shown that spending time outdoors is not only good for adults, but beneficial and necessary for our children as well.
But spending time outdoors isn’t just a brain break for Garrison Forest School students; it’s integrated into their educational philosophy.
When you first arrive on Garrison’s 110 acre campus, it’s hard not to notice the sprawling green landscape. Tree-lined paths on the campus are regularly spotted with students interacting with their environment, inquiring about local pollinators, sketching inspiring landscapes, or reading and chatting with friends under a tree.
“In my tenure, I have seen the shift in the importance we place on being outdoors,” said Gail Hutton, an educator of over 30 years and Head of Garrison Forest’s Lower School. “When we create opportunities for children to learn outdoors, we are also providing pathways for them to create, explore, problem- solve, and negotiate. We heighten and enhance their sensory skills, help them to discover patterns, learn about animals, and create a keen awareness and concern for the environment,” said Ms. Hutton.
Current research shows that exposing students to authentic and meaningful outdoor experiences throughout their school years, leads students to better grades, higher graduation rates, better leadership and communication skills, and stronger critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Garrison is in the beginning stages of enhancing research-based environmental learning initiatives, that not only will get students learning outside, but also help to create purposeful experiences where students can actively experience the natural environment with joy and wonder.
One such initiative? “First Fridays in the Forest.” First Fridays will have every class from K-5 spending time outdoors on the first Friday of every month. The goal is to have each grade level “own” a section of the campus. Students would be responsible for mapping, studying, and learning more about their section through developmentally appropriate, engaging activities. Then each group will share the information they’ve gathered at their “Grizzly Gathering” time, a time to discuss, compare and contrast, and educate one other about what they’ve learned.
The school is also working on creating school gardens — but they’re thinking beyond ‘food to table.’
“We’re hoping to create a dye garden to be used by our Art Department. They will create natural dye pigments for textiles, yarns, soap making, and even artists’ paints and pastels,” said Ms. Hutton. “Down the road, we’d love to create a larger pollinator garden, too!”
Garrison already has an outdoor classroom, a small pollinator garden, and a pond on their campus. Their teachers regularly use these outdoor assets to enhance what students learn in the classroom, and bring learning to life. Stay tuned for updates about these new initiatives!
To learn more about Garrison Forest, visit http://www.gfs.org/.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we will spotlight one of our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about Garrison Forest School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Want to become a school partner? Email us.