Worm charming, monkey brain racing, nature hikes, and bonfires. Pawpaw planting, Seed ball spreading, and conquering the whale watch. Every Friday this fall, our lower school students have spent dedicated time on the Crocker Conservancy, growing friendships, learning about connections in nature, and exploring the wild side of campus.
Powhatan has long embraced outdoor learning in an approach we call NEAL, or Nature Enhanced Approach to Learning. We use it to bring our students outside into the natural world and to bring the natural world indoors to our students. Science, creative writing, art, and social studies all lend themselves to robust learning experiences through the use of our natural resources around campus.
Our Crocker Fridays started with the goal of scheduling a minimum of one outdoor class each week for every grade level in our lower school. Our goal wasn’t just fun; many studies have shown that outdoor education and play support childrens’ emotional, behavioral, and intellectual development. Outdoor learning has been shown to boost development of empathy, self-confidence, independence, and problem-solving skills.
By setting aside dedicated instructional time each week, we are able to get every Lower School student out to the Crocker Conservancy regularly. Lessons ranged from team-building activities on our new low-ropes course to wildlife studies, nature journaling, navigating with a compass, building a whole Roxaboxen community out of natural materials, and exploring plant life traditionally used by Native Americans. November brought a chance for marshmallow roasting and sharing a moment of gratitude by a blazing bonfire.
Our Crocker classes typically start with a quote to set the tone for our time together. The 4th graders particularly liked this quote, credited to Albert Einstein: Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Powhatan’s NEAL program is dedicated to providing opportunities for our students to explore, discover, and look deep into nature. What a joyful learning experience it has been this fall!
~Mrs. Coutts, Lower School Science Teacher & NEAL Coordinator