4-year old Mia steps carefully around a circle of stumps, from one to another, to another. The next one is slightly farther away. She pauses to consider whether she can step far enough to reach it.
Henry, age 2, finds a branch split lengthwise, leaning against a log forming a ramp. He rolls a pebble down the branch. He watches it pick up speed and bounce off the end. He tries again and again from different starting places.
A group of 3- and 4-year olds work together to add a heavy branch to the fort they are building. They talk about how to lift it and where it should go.
This is Nature School. It doesn’t look like traditional learning, but learning is happening all the time.
Those fort builders are learning about cooperation, teamwork, communication and compromise. Henry is learning about physics – gravity, slope, speed. Mia is developing balance and core strength. She is learning her body’s limits and to use her own judgement to assess risk. She might fall. She might scrape a knee. But, if she hasn’t learned it yet, she will soon know she is strong enough to fall and get back up all by herself.
To children, Nature School doesn’t feel like school at all. It feels like play. And friends. And joy. And wonder. Time to explore and freedom to roam. It is learning the way learning should happen.
A Nature School parent told us, “Every day our son wakes up and asks, ‘Am I going to regular school today or do I get to go to [Nature] School?’”
At day’s end, children might be wet and muddy. Their hair might be full of pine needles. They might be exuberantly exhausted. And, like Henry and Mia, they will be asking when they get to come back.