There are some kids who would be outside all day if we’d let them. They are the ones who sit by the window, gazing wistfully outside, not able to focus on their work. Or perhaps they are the kids who have so much energy, and they are exhausted trying to keep it together for two more hours. You know the kids I’m talking about. You may even have one yourself.
Faced with the prospect of four of these kids, this year we began the Outdoor Academy. Taught by Behm Williams, these guys head outside in the afternoon while others are doing Spanish, art, and projects. Each day they begin by setting up a tarp together, both to give them shade and to practice working as a group. They have read a variety of books together: My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Where the Lilies Bloom, Lost on a Mountain in Maine, and The Other Side of the Mountain, all books that focus on living and surviving in the outdoors. They have discussed these books and written about them in their journals.
Practice in knot tying, fly tying, and fishing kept them engaged and worked on fine motor skills. They have built different kinds of outdoor structures together. They’ve learned about plant identification, cleaned up the property, and played outdoor games. And sensory experiences abound.
We have found that they are much more able to focus on their morning classes knowing they will be outside and active in the afternoon. It’s all part of our thinking outside the box approach to each child’s needs, and it’s served these guys well.