ECO: Educating Children Outdoors
"It’s so cool that we are exploring this stuff that we normally would walk right by. I am noticing so much more!"
“I love how the rhythm provided by the aforementioned core routines helps ground students and provide them with the sense that we’re not just outside to play. We have serious learning that takes place and we have expectations that we are holding students to even though we’re not in the classroom. These routines give predictability to the learning experience which helps students transition between indoor and outdoor learning.”
"Ah, I love going into the woods. This is the best part of ECO!"
“Can we do ECO in the summer even though we don’t have school?”
“I can’t begin to choose a “most beneficial experience.” There is the sense of independence that children are gaining as they learn to care for themselves, others and their environment, the sense of wonder and curiosity they bring to the woods and their explorations, and then there is the “We’re all in this together, “ community-building that is occurring. Some children love the time just “being” in their sit spots, others are energetically creating tools out of sticks, logs, rocks, and other things found, and yet other children have become so excited about animal tracking that they are asking their parents to look online for more videos about tracking and taking them outside to search for “a story.” Learning to carve, roasting apples or cooking bread on a stick, building rock cairns by the brook, lugging wood up to the base camp as a team, learning new tag games that support the learning about animals, life cycle and food chain, watching an adult build a fire to warm our hands and feet by, making “gifts” for the animals that visit our sit spot, and reflecting on our learning with the use of journals, are all things to be cherished and continued with children as we move through the rest of the year. I guess the most beneficial experience for my class is that there is something for everyone----individual interests are honored and children are able to engage with their interests. There is a great deal of planning that goes into this by the NBNC folks, and this is coordinated with classroom teachers with reflection/planning meetings and emails after each session. The planning is a guide, and allows for individual children to branch off from the general lesson and incorporate their own explorations.”
“The rhythm of our experiences remind us that ECO is not in addition to what we do on a daily basis, it is a part of what we do. Our experiences have encouraged us as teachers about the importance of immersing our students in this type of learning. They ask for it, the thrive on it, and they need it. All of these thing are what encourage us to make it authentic and part of our daily routine. We incorporate many of our ECO routines into our daily routines (Morning Meeting, sit spot, sharing,etc..), which make it feel like a part of what we do every day.”
“Working in the forest with my students is like another classroom. We observe, discuss, write, read, draw, sing, work cooperative, problem solve, and learn history together. We perform these skills every day in the class and we perform these same skills, and more, outside on ECO days.”
"Are we going to get to visit our sit spots today? Are they going to be next to trees?” After a reply of yes and yes, a deafening collective scream of “YAAAAAY!!!”
Branch Nature Center