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Outdoor Education

Poop in the Sandpit

By Zhou Jiang and Ting Zhang | By Children in urban kindergartens lack opportunities to get close to nature. But with help from teachers, getting close to nature can still happen – as the following story illustrates. The story is about a kindergarten in the West Lake District, Hangzhou City, where poop in the sandpit inspired a class of 4–5-year-old children to explore their relationship with a cat.

When Nature is the Classroom

By Amy and Dan Warren | Our son, Lio, hops in the car at the end of a cold and damp school day. Rosy-cheeked and smeared with earth and ash from fort-building and fire-making, he reaches down to take off his boots and empty them of leaves, water, and mud. His pockets carry the day’s found treasures: Quartz rocks, cool sticks that double as swords, acorns with their cupule caps carefully removed. He tells us about playing in the stream, falling in, and then warming up by the fire. The cold and wet, and the restorative warmth of fire, are intimate experiences for Lio, part of his personal history. Consequences—the interplay of these experiences—are naturally rooted in the context, and so they are predictable and seemingly just. So too is his personal efficacy, as he navigates the context: The warmth of the fire he helped to make, and his regained comfort, signal his effectiveness. He is but a part of a whole system called Nature.

Video: Becoming Ruby

Watch this short film about the journey of mountain biker and artist Brooklyn Bell, directed by Dave Meyers:

School Gardens in the City

By Jane Hirschi | Years ago, I spent an afternoon with a group of eighth-grade boys digging up potatoes. They were amazed to find potatoes growing underground and surprised by their almost peppery flavor when we cooked and ate them. More recently, I witnessed a third grader who often struggled when asked to speak about lessons carried out in the classroom but who could speak with authority about the decomposition process in the school’s garden compost bin. And even more recently a seventh grader showed off her impressive knowledge of flowers – knowledge stemming (pun intended) from her active participation in school gardening and from drawing flowers in her art classes and searching on the internet for flowers she had never seen. These and countless other stories have taught me the power of school gardens for connecting students to nature and for supporting their learning. This power is all the more impressive when school gardens are in the city.

When Nature Gives You Ticks, Create a Tick Curriculum

By Robin Huntley and David Sobel | Start a conversation about using the natural environment, or taking learning outside, or studying the bobolinks in the meadow, and ticks start crawling through the recesses of school administrators’ and parents’ minds. Ticks and their associated diseases are perceived as a scourge across the northeastern United States, and rightfully so. Lyme disease is no laughing matter. This article describes how a surging tick population on the grounds of a rural Maine school inspired a class of third-graders to engage in a study of ticks, their habitat, and behaviors.

What if You Could Email A Tree?

By Ashley Lin | If you don’t know the name of the tree outside your house or apartment (or don’t know if there is a tree outside your window), you’re not alone. Most people don’t think about finding nature when they look out their window at home or at their workplace, so they don’t see nature.

The Elephant-Human Relations Aid Program: Projects and Empathy for a Neighborhood of Friends

By Osita Achufusi | 415,000. That’s how many African elephants are left in the wild as of 2018, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. While this may seem like a sufficient amount, it’s not. Consider that an estimated 10 million of these gentle giants roamed Africa just a mere 90 years ago and that there was an approximate 111,000 drop in the African elephant population between 2006 and 2016, and suddenly 415,000 sounds dangerously low.

Nature’s Toolbox: Learning with Nature at the Auchlone Nature Kindergarten

Sarah Wagner | Imagine the best possible early childhood program – where children spend the day in a space beautifully organized to invite a variety of forms of children’s play, where the children remain engaged by a rich array of materials to play with, build with, and learn with, and where teachers engage the children in soft-spoken, validating ways …

I Love Nature: Nature-Based Art Education in Early Childhood

By Bian Xia | After four visits to China, Howard Gardner wrote in To Open Minds, a seminal text comparing education in China and the United States: We might contrast the Western, more “revolutionary” view with a more “evolutionary” view espoused by the Chinese.