A typical day of Nature Explorers starts out with our greeting circle. Here we come together at our stump circle in the woods to discuss discoveries of past weeks and make plans for our day. Before heading out, students are reminded of our most important rule, that you must always be able to see a teacher. We also make a special call for bringing everyone together.
Next, students select the tools and materials they will need for their adventures. They might select a bucket and net, a shovel, a clipboard or plant press depending on their ideas for the day. Students learn to keep track of the equipment they use and make sure it makes it back at the end of class. Once we are all ready, we head down to our “base camp,” which is usually down at the creek. Here we put down a blanket where students can place backpacks and snacks to lighten their load for more engaging exploration. Because we often spend much of our time around and in the creek, students need to be aware of basic water safety.
From base camp, we break into smaller groups based on interest. Some students may organize an “expedition” with a teacher to explore further downstream, while others may want to stay and journal. Because the curriculum of this class is emergent and student led, each class is unique in the themes that students focus on. However, past themes have included seasonal changes, trail building, animal tracking, plant and animal identification, building/creating with natural and found materials, and much more.
During the morning, we have a reminder for snack. Some of our classes have a “Tea Time,” where we introduce teas that teachers have made from native wild plants for students to try. We finish our day by gathering up our equipment and returning to our Gathering Place for our closing circle. Here we share the discoveries of our day and make plans for next week. Finally, we sing a closing song together.
Nature Explorers is a class built in the Forest School tradition. You can learn more about this tradition and the wealth of research into nature based education which has inspired this curriculum in resources such as:
- "Teaching the Cedarsong Way" by Erin K. Kenny and Robin Rogers
- "Forest Schools for All" by Sara Knight
- "Nature Connection" by C.W. Leslie
- "Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places" by Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble
- "The Nature Principle" (etc.) by Richard Louv
Common Questions and Answers:
What materials do students need for this class?
Students need a pair of rain boots and outdoor clothing appropriate for the weather. They need a nutritious snack and a water bottle. Depending on the season, parents should also apply any desired sunscreen or bug repellent before class; defensive clothing is a great alternative. They should also bring a full change of clothes – they will get wet and muddy during this class!
What will my child learn in this class?
As described earlier, there is not a preset curriculum for this class and it is not a class of direct instruction. Each group of students and teachers will create experiences together, inspired by our explorations of nature. This can take a wide variety of forms, from figuring out how to catch and identify fish, to making beautiful nature inspired art, to creating a “nature museum” for parents to visit. However, all students do the important learning of taking care of our environment and each other as we explore.
What are teachers doing during class?
Teachers’ roles during class are to ensure students safety, to support students by scaffolding their learning, and to help students make connections between discoveries and also each other. Teachers share their expertise when appropriate, but also encourage students to make their own discoveries first hand. Teachers model their own enthusiasm, curiosity and respectful nature interactions, inspiring students to do the same. Teachers document students’ learning to understand students’ questions more deeply, to help bridge the time gap between classes, and to share learning with families so students can continue to build on their connections.
Can my child take this class more than once?
Absolutely! Students (and teachers!) continue to grow with every class, and each is a unique, never to be repeated opportunity for discovery.
My child has a fear of bugs (or snakes, or spiders…). Should he/she take this class?
It depends. We make every effort to work with students where they are, and certainly there are plenty of other things to explore in nature! However, we are in nature and will definitely encounter bugs and spiders, and occasionally a snake. If your child has a severe phobia, this class might not be a good fit for you. However, if your child’s fear is more of an idea not based on experience, your child may end up loving this class. Talk with our instructors if you are unsure about your decision.