Dear my friends,
It is very special that you can highlight this aspect to our school, as this is something very dear to my heart! As a parent and educator, NatureWize enabled me to work with other families to bring healthy, outdoor physical activity and nature exploration to our kids. We started it as an escape from the city, but it turned into one joyful experience after another, as the children played openly and freely and we found curiosity after curiosity upon footpaths, leaves, tree bark, and rocks. It was a parent’s and educator’s delight!
Since then I explored ways to make this “weekend activity” a more regular experience for young people. Indeed, according to the Children and Nature Network, started by writer Richard Louv of Last Child in the Woods, and its litany of research citations, more frequent exposure to nature improves emotional and physical health, instills an environmental protection ethic, and exposes students to a living, breathing “outdoor classroom”. I have spent quite some time in four walled classrooms. They are stuffy, many times with artificial lighting, and the educational experiences are constrained by textbooks and schedules. In many ways, Xingfu Xuetang realizes this. Indeed, the academy’s mission includes a strong component to promote healthy physical and emotional health, including spending more time outdoors. What I love is that, by integrating nature education into a regular school schedule, our school can pioneer a healthier, more inquiry-based and authentic learning approach for more of our youth!
In addition to balancing societal academic expectations, i.e. students do need a whiteboard periodically for equations and we need shelter from winter and rain, Xingfu Xuetang Elementary has explicitly integrated nature activities into a weekly Friday afternoon “outdoor classroom”, what we call “Friday Explorations”. The activities are gently designed to align with content the students are learning in those indoor spaces, i.e. as part of our life cycles unit, our last trip to Forest Park looked for insects in particular, and we created a small vegetable garden to align with our unit on plants. However, in keeping in tune with the theme “nature education”, the teachers are guides and co-participators in the activities, not the “experts” or “knowledge transferers”. We share our discoveries together. Discoveries are made throughout the afternoon, interspersed with friends strolling together, darting of children up the trail, the building of fairy homes out of sticks and leaves, and the chaotic joy of spontaneous games. Nature has the space for all of that. And then, once back in the classroom, you might find a stray beetle or two that accidentally journeyed back with us. Which would you prefer, to carry a beetle in your palm (or safely watch, for the squeamish ones) that you witnessed in its habitat, or to see a two-dimensional picture in a textbook?
幸福学堂 | 小学部 | 项目负责人：Katie Scott（姜悦溪）