A Sample ECO Day
The routines that are embedded into our ECO schedule provide the walls of our outdoor classroom. These routines are practices for learning in nature that help to cultivate a lasting relationship with the natural world and foster a sense of place. *We would like to acknowledge Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown for inspiring our use of these routines through their book, Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.
This is a place in the classroom that sets the stage for the day, serving as an area for students to explore aspects of the natural world by using their senses. Objects in the museum may be brought in by students from a time spent outside with their class or from home. Field guides, feathers and plant materials or rocks can be contributed to the nature museum. These items change seasonally or with a new unit of study. Nature has a place in the classroom.
Morning circle brings everyone together to discuss dressing for weather, what to pack in your backpack and to review safety agreements on how we care for ourselves and others. Students can share what they have noticed in nature recently or make predictions of what they may find outside today. Meeting as a class builds community and prepares students to be active participants in the plan for the day.
Let’s move our bodies and use our senses to play some games! This is a great time to release energy, practice gross motor skills and apply some basic science concepts through creative movement. Playing tag to learn predator-prey relationships or coming together for a group challenge are some of our favorite games.
We take care of ourselves outdoors by eating a hearty snack and drinking warm tea we have made over the fire. As we sit in a community circle a teacher tells a story or provides a read-aloud. The story can inspire the lesson of the day or help to make classroom connections.
It’s time to have some fun learning! A standards-based (NGSS, Common Core) lesson is introduced to the students and they set off to build, explore, gather, create or record. Back in the classroom, teachers expound upon and assess student learning from the field.
A favorite part of the ECO day, Forest Choice is a time for students to work on building projects, use tools in the workshop area, cook over a fire or explore and play in the forest. This time allows for students practice engineering, creativity and explore risk-taking with the support of teachers and their peers.
Each student selects their own special place that they will return to throughout the year. Students take some time to reflect upon what we’ve learned and observed during our ECO time. We may write in our journals at our sit spots or simply sit and observe.
Our time outdoors has come to an end and students and teachers gather together to reflect on our learning. We may share something we are grateful for, something we noticed at our sit spots, or a part of the day we want to share with the whole class. Before leaving, we always say thank you and goodbye to the land that hosts us for ECO.