Two of three Gatewood Kindergarten sections (50 students) will be outside next year 3-4 hours out of their six-hour day! The forest, pond, field, gardens, and hillside will be their classroom. Forest Friday has been popular for six years; now the Kindergarten Team is ready to take it to the next level. HEF will be funding rain/mud gear for all students, including boots. The gear will be re-used year after year, to make outdoor activities comfortable for all. Teacher Kay McCarthy comments, “We have watched children learn about their world, take risks, engage in child-lead teamwork. (When we) remove walls and barriers to learning, students are encouraged to explore, wonder, collaborate, imagine.” The team is most excited to address classroom behavior – by changing the sensory input, they will eliminate much of the need for redirection. And they will provide many non-traditional opportunities for success, promoting self-confidence in learning. Outdoor learning is hands-on and individualized, and will have an emphasis in science and math; students will also learn to be stewards of their environment. A longer-term goal of this program is to become an outdoor K-1 multi-age group, and/or expand outdoor learning to other grades.
Submitters: Katie Schmidt and Kay McCarthy