Jumping logs. Smashing stones. Collecting leaves. Helping birds. These are just a few of the activities that take place in Grades K – 4 teacher Kayla Carter's outdoor science curriculum.
Introduced in the 2017 – 2018 school year with the Kindergarten, Carter's program is a 100% nature-based science program. Even when classes are indoors, such as when students learn more about engineering by building fairy houses with sticks, the activities include principle elements from nature.
"Not only is it better because it's more hands on and the kids have more meaningful connections to the content, but there is lots of research now surfacing saying that kids are not outdoors enough and they are missing developmental milestones," said Carter.
"A lot of attention issues are happening because kids don't know how to find that balance. When you're out in nature it's green, it's calm, it's the natural colors and sounds . . . everything that is stimulating you, all the senses, are in a good balance."
In the Kindergarten, outdoor science lessons center around topics that students find of interest. Last year they spent time exploring how to identify trees by their leaves, while this year the focus is on taking things home from outdoors – the perfect opportunity for Carter to introduce how to be a responsible nature explorer and the "1 in 30" Rule," or that only if there is 30 or more of something can scavengers take one item.
In the first grade, topics including observation skills and the weather will be taught with an outdoor focus, while in second grade some geology and animal classification lessons will include elements of nature as well. The third grade's study of ecosystems is a perfect fit for the outdoor curriculum, and the fourth grade's exploration of migratory birds necessarily includes nature-based lessons as well.
"It's not just science," reflected Carter. "Kids today don't have as much time outside as kids in the past. We're providing them with more time and tools that they can carry with them to really take advantage of outdoor-based play and exploration."