ECO: Educating Children Outdoors
“In a world filled with computers and technology... we want to foster an awareness and appreciation for our natural world. ECO is a way for us to do that... ECO has proven to combine all of these essential components while incorporating teamwork and community building. All of these skills are critical for 21st century learning.”
ECO is a standards based nature immersion program that works in collaboration with public school teachers and their students. ECO’s goal is to help children and their school to develop a lasting relation with the natural world and foster a sense of place and stewardship in our local Vermont communities.
Now in its 5th year, ECO is working in 7 area schools on a weekly and biweekly basis to help meet Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards outdoors while introducing children to the natural community right outside their classroom. By using city parks, public lands, and other local green spaces, ECO helps teachers get their students engaged in natural inquiry-based learning. The surrounding environment becomes a co-teacher as we explore the fields for insects and build bear dens in the forest.
Through this type of active learning, children gain a healthy respect for nature, their communities, themselves, and for one another. ECO is not a field trip or a visit to a forest. Teachers, students and ECO staff spend 2 to 4 hours weekly exploring a forest, wetland or field, playing games, engaging the senses, journaling at sit spots, sharing in a community circle around a fire, and engaging in cooperative learning through guided discovery. We practice these core routines continuously throughout the school year.
Branch Nature Center