Wilderness Education as a part of school?

Read any article about child development and one of the most popular themes is that children need to spend time outdoors and yet children across the nation are deprived from time outside, exercise and the reward that comes from discovery and exploring our natural world.  My theory is that children need to spend MORE TIME outside.  Education and learning  does not have to take place surrounded by the walls of a classroom.

Have you ever just gone into the woods to do nothing but sit? Once a human enters the woods it takes at least 30 minutes for the woods to get back to normal. Although you don’t realize it once you enter the woods you have disrupted the flow of the minute aspects of nature. A human enters the woods and the bird calls change, the messengers have sent the call. Once the birds are alerted all other creatures great and small are on alert. It takes practice to master the art of entering the woods and walking in the woods without alerting or disturbing everything around you.

A significant aspect of the Lower School Program at Riley is dedicated to learning about our natural world and our place in it. We venture out to the woods many times during the week but Tuesday’s are dedicated to Outdoor Education. Over the course of the year the children will be introduced to track identification, learning about the four directions, using a compass, cartography, basic primitive skills and learning how to be a part of nature, not simply walking or playing in the woods that surround our beautiful campus. The children will be begin to see the woods come alive around them. This past Tuesday was our first Outdoor Day of the school year. Here is a short clip of the children sitting in their quiet spots. Since it was the first time, the spots were close together but as time goes on the children will spread out so that they can’t see each other. After sitting in silence for 10 minutes we meet back as a group to discuss what children may or may not have observed in that time. I am delightfully surprised by their ability to sit quietly and their observations. Next week we will begin making entries in our Wilderness Journals.

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