A Sample ECO Day
The core routines are embedded into our ECO schedule and 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 the core 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. Field guides, feathers and plant materials can be found in and contributed to the nature museum. These items change seasonally or with a new unit of study. Nature has a place in the classroom.
The drum beats out the rhythm as we sing our opening song together, gently signaling students that it is time to form a circle for our morning meeting. The talking stick is passed around the circle and when it comes to us we share a nature note or something we are thankful for. This is also the time where teachers will introduce what the day will look like.
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 in the oral tradition 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 play with friends 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.
Encircled by hemlock and beech trees, students and teachers gather together to reflect on our learning and to give a quiet thank you to the forest that hosts us for ECO. The drum beats and we begin our journey back inside from our outdoor classroom.