Some of the most important lessons occur when students connect with resources outside of the classroom. That was definitely the case with our upper elementary students who spent the last week at Nature’s Classroom in Charleton, Massachusetts. Nature’s Classroom is a national program that gives students an educational experience from a perspective outside of the walls of the school. It is designed to help students develop more confidence in themselves, appreciation for others, and a deeper sense of community that they can bring back to their school.
During my visit this week, our Oak Meadow teachers told me, “We are amazed by what our kids have accomplished here. They pushed themselves in taking on challenges. They demonstrated care for themselves, for their belongings, for classmates, and for the environment at a really high level. For some kids, this was their first overnight away from home, and over the course of this week, we saw students develop a sense of confidence in their own ability to be more independent.”
The activities at Nature’s Classroom are designed to appeal to students in fourth through sixth grade. Some of the classes included Zombie Apocalypse, Predator or Prey, and Trial of the Lorax. When I asked students about their favorite activity, many mentioned the Night Hike, a one-hour trek into the woods at night. “Sitting around the campfire and eating s’mores and sliding down a snowy hill at night, that’s an experience I will always remember,” one student told me.
I was also incredibly impressed by an act of kindness on the part of our students. One of program teachers, Clarence, who goes by the name “Clare-Bear” is retiring from Nature’s Classroom. After spending many years working in the program, this was going to be Clare-Bear’s final school group. A group of our students wanted to make sure that his last day would be a memorable celebration of his years of commitment, so they organized a special event that included student singing and dancing for Clare-Bear. He was deeply touched, and wiped a tear from his eye following this wonderful and caring presentation by Oak Meadow students.
When Tina and I first arrived at Nature’s Classroom this week, the students were out in the woods participating in programs. That gave us a chance to talk with the Oak Meadow teachers and hear their feelings about the week. What impressed us so much was their enthusiasm about Nature’s Classroom, and how happy they were that the kids were having such a great experience. It was clear that our teachers care deeply about the children. They know each child personally, and care about each child. They were entirely focused on what each child was feeling and needing while they were on this trip. My wife and I have been at many schools over the years, and we have known many teachers, and something about this interaction really stands out.