‘Nature Is a Powerful Teacher’: The Educational Value of Going Outside

‘Nature Is a Powerful Teacher’: The Educational Value of Going Outside
Four years ago, the nurse at Boston's Young Achievers School was overwhelmed. Previously a middle school, Young Achievers had recently become a K-8 school and there was no appropriate space for recess. Instead, according to a teacher at the school, students spent recess in “a disorganized, cracked, muddy parking lot,” where they ran between and bounced balls off of cars.

That changed when a group called the Boston Schoolyard Initiative began a community planning process to build a new playground and outdoor classroom at the school. Today, students spend recess digging in a sand box, crafting tunnels through a bramble, and playing in a stream—and asphalt injuries no longer fill the nurse’s office.

Nixing Recess: The Silly, Alarmingly Popular Way to Punish Kids

Young Achievers is just one of the 88 schools the schoolyard initiative has renovated since it began bringing green space to urban schools in 1995. Through its partnership with the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative, BSI has developed, designed, and constructed outside space at every feasible elementary and K-8 Boston public school.

“Nature is a powerful teacher, and there are so many things that kids can learn hands-on in the schoolyard that they cannot learn sitting in a classroom,” Boston Schoolyard Initiative's Executive Director Myrna Johnson said.

I talked to teachers at a handful of schools to find out how the outdoor facilities have affected everything from science curriculums to behavior management.

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