Pre-School Explorers Summer Camp Provides a Lab for Safe, Outdoor Learning

Among the over twenty summer program offerings, the School welcomed back some of our youngest learners for a reimagined on campus Pre-School Explorers Camp. In years past, the Pre-School Explorers Camp has included many indoor opportunities for discovery and learning. This year all learning has taken place outdoors. 

"This summer’s pre-school camp gave faculty the opportunity to practice procedures that are now in place for the fall, such as daily temperature taking, increased handwashing and other safety and health measures. The summer program also affirmed that the value of this outdoor programming is significant when you experience it first-hand,” said Director of Pre-School Programs Kathy Carpenter. Outdoor education is nothing new for many of our students and faculty. In the summer of 2019, the school created a Natural Playground and could see first hand the benefits for learning outdoors. 

Carpenter commented, “Due to the pandemic, the timeline to create the infrastructure to enable outdoor learning accelerated as the CDC indicated the safest places to be for our youngest students and our faculty is outside. We have almost completed construction of open-air cottages designed by our Director of Facilities Robert Bogley, which each offer a front courtyard facing a beautiful meadow. Fencing will be added along the roadway and we have added other cultivated and cleaned up natural areas such as a communal garden, “Saint’s Meadow” play area, walking trails, and other natural classroom sites.”  

Our faculty and administrators have had the opportunity to engage in rich professional development this summer to prepare for increased outdoor learning. Thanks to shared discussions of books, as well as in person consulting with the owner and teachers at Wild Rock Nature Play and Discovery Center, our faculty feels prepared for the year ahead. 

The shift to greater outdoor learning opportunities fits with the current pedagogy at St. Anne’s-Belfield School, especially in the Pre-School, which offers an inquiry, play-based program that values active, open-ended learning, exploration, investigation, and creation. There have been multiple research studies that indicate the value of outdoor learning for multiple learning styles—the calming effect on behavior, a heightened concern for conservation, empathy for the environment, superior motor coordination, and inquiry that nurtures research skills. 

Carpenter recalled, “One day this past week when the children were tired and needed a bit of a break, we moved yoga mats onto Saint’s Meadow. The children, on their own accord, suggested they lay on their back and listen ‘to the world.’ The only sound was the breeze through the trees, birds and an airplane overhead. When they opened their eyes, the entire class mood shifted to a calm and focused one, ready to tackle the next activity. There was no need for other tactics; nature and the children’s own awareness of their senses did the trick!”

To learn more about our Pre-School program please visit our website


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