The Importance of Outdoor Education

The Importance of Outdoor Education
by UE2 teacher Laura McCrady

“There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.” - Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori believed deeply in the value of children being offered the opportunity to explore the natural world as an extension of their classroom. In our Upper Elementary classrooms, this takes a variety of forms. Our immediate outdoor space provides us with the ability to work and give lessons outside, explore the diversity of plant life found within our many gardens, and observe and work with our new bee hives. These opportunities not only allow the child to become fascinated with the wonder that is Creation, but also learn how to be thoughtful and caring stewards of the earth. However, our school’s location in a residential area limits our ability for outdoor exploration. We supplement these outdoor opportunities by taking the 5th and 6th grade students to outdoor school each fall.

Children from the ages of 9-12 are in a sensitive period for socialization and learning about their roles in the world. Our classroom is set up so that students have access to the resources they need to make investigations, explorations and discoveries ranging from the communities they belong to all the way up to the grandeur of our universe. At camp, they take these investigations to the next level; outside of our four walls.

Outdoor School has taken many forms over the years. This year, we are excited to have taken our students to Camp Ken-Jockety, located in Galloway, Ohio, along the Big Darby Creek. Our students spent their days on 220 wooded acres, exploring the woods, hiking, creeking, fishing, and testing their survival skills. Students were responsible for planning and preparing all of our meals. They had the opportunity to practice purchasing food on a budget, planning for dietary restrictions, and using safe kitchen skills.

No matter its form, outdoor school is a favorite tradition of many students, and something we all eagerly look forward to. For some, this is the first opportunity to be away from home and family overnight; having their peers beside them helps with the transition. Living and learning together during their camp experience helps them to develop a deeper sense of community, builds confidence, and guides them to a better understanding of the importance of their work inside the classroom.