Category Archives: Outdoor Classroom

New Paths to Learning

dsc_0016Hidden beyond the shoulders of Sunflower Hill is another world, one that Inly’s children have only caught glimpses of from the trail that skirts the edge and winds down to the bottom of the driveway. From tree-plank benches, they are able to peer down into the secrets and hypothesize on what happens in the forests and wetlands, sketching in their minds or on paper what they see and imagine. There are even animal homes and tunnels that dot the trail’s landscapes, including a fox den recently taken over by a groundhog. Deer and turkeys have also been spotted along the trail, now covered in oranges and reds from autumn leaves, eventually slipping into to their secret habitats.

But something is changing. A new path has opened. One that will bring the child’s eye—and all other senses—closer to the hidden mysteries. Thanks to the time and resources of various families, the final stage of the quarter-mile trail development is nearing completion. Beginning with a serpentine wooden boardwalk that stretches across the stream and wetlands on both ends, children will be instantly greeted with a symphony of bird calls and songs repeating from hickory tree to spice bush to scattered stone walls. Recent rains foretell the seasonal changes as the stream becomes a sliver again and a more present gurgle following the melting snows of the winter and spring to come. Winding past these sights and off the boardwalk, the child will be greeted with maples (containing sweet sap to be harvested in February) and the scent of pine woods. They will pass ferns and rotten logs, home to many smaller creatures, as well as other half-buried markers of a human past. There are so many places to pause and explore, to hold a magnifying glass close and see the recently unseen, to imagine through drawings and words, or simply to be aware of the universal connection of all things.

These trails are full of potential for each child and teacher to unlock. Not only is there the wide scope of scientific concepts, but also bridges to literature, language, and writing; representations of symmetry and geometry; touch points of geography and cultural; musical melodies and rhythms; the grace of movement; the beauty of color and shadow; and so much more. The trails are wild extensions of the domesticity of Sunflower Hill, where students find structure and patterns to guide and help them better understand the outdoors, themselves and the world, which in turn is a both a reflection and extension of Inly’s Montessori classrooms, the da Vinci Studio, and the smaller outdoor spaces on campus.

As Richard Louv says, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

By Bruce Frost, Upper Elementary Teacher

Bruce is a veteran elementary school teacher with almost 20 years experience in the classroom. He holds a B.A. from Northeastern University, a M.Ed. from Lesley College, and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Prior to teaching, he worked within the publishing field for many years—an experience he brings to the classroom through his love of literature and writing. Among Bruce’s accomplishments during his tenure at South River School in Marshfield are integrated curriculum development and the creation of a 3,600-square-foot organic garden and outdoor learning center. In addition to his role as upper elementary teacher at Inly, he has trained in constructing and managing the World Peace Game and is the coordinator of the Outdoor Classroom and organic garden, where he shares his joy of exploring the creative possibilities and responsibilities within our world. Outside of the classroom, Bruce not only continues to garden and write but is also an active runner and outdoors enthusiast.

A Glimpse of Inly at 41

By Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

Luther, DonnaThe school year ahead promises to be filled with dynamic programs and initiatives. A big piece of this will be the launch of our new strategic plan, which will act as a roadmap for the school over the next three years. In the coming months, I will provide updates in my Rhythm & News articles about the different components of the plan and how each will unfold.

In the meantime, here’s a preview of what you can expect at Inly in the 2013-14 year:

Expanded Bus Service
Inly now has an expanded bus service with stops in Boston, Dorchester, Quincy, and Hingham. It is our hope in offering this service that we can make Inly School more accessible to the greater community and continue to draw students from these towns.

Speaker Series
The Omran • Nelson Speaker Series is in honor of two Inly faculty members, Sue Omran and Brien Nelson, who were sadly lost to cancer. Both Sue Omran and Brien Nelson were, in their own unique ways, extremely passionate about Montessori education, adult education, children, and learning. To perpetuate this speaker series in their names is a wonderful tribute to them and their ideals.

This year, to kick off the series, Inly will be welcoming esteemed speaker, Joe Ehrmann. Joe is a former professional athlete turned inspirational, speaker who works with corporate, civic and community organizations and associations to promote growth, teamwork, effectiveness, and individual responsibility. We hope to see you all on Wednesday, October 23.

Sports Initiatives
In another article in this issue, “Amping Up Sports,” you will hear from our new physical education specialist, Jabari Scutchins, and learn about the different ways we are improving the sports programs at Inly and providing more opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day and school year.

Middle School Programmatic Initiatives
This year, Inly is working with NuVu Studio in Cambridge to offer our 8th grade students a truly groundbreaking experiential learning program. For two intensive weeks, our students will work with experts and PhDs from MIT and Harvard on multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects that solve real-world problems. It is the first time NuVu Studio has worked with students younger than high school and we are honored that they have agreed to work with our students.

For the second year, Inly School is working with “Intercultural Experiences” to bring two middle school students to Inly from Guatemala. Middle School families will host the students who will attend Inly Middle School for six weeks. These students quickly become a part of and add to the Middle School community. They also work with our elementary Spanish instructor, Kaela Conroy, in her classes as a way to connect with the broader Inly community as well.  To expand this exchange experience for our students, we are also partnering with the service learning program “Con Los Ojos Abiertos” to offer our graduating 8th graders and alumni students an opportunity to work and learn in Guatemala for two weeks over the summer. There will be more information on this program in the coming months.

Parent Insight Series & Student Assemblies
This year, we will continue to offer a Parent Insight Series of educational talks designed to provide opportunities for parents to practice lifelong learning, whether about Inly and its philosophy and programs, or about parenting in general. The series will touch on topics including Montessori in the home, discussing adolescence, beyond sticks and stones, building lifelong readers and writers, and keeping learning alive.

In addition, there will be a number of student assemblies throughout the school year that are designed to complement and enrich the curriculum. This year, we have an exciting array of assembly speakers including Jacqueline Davies, author of The Lemonade War, artist Ventura Fabian and his “Dancing Chickens,” singers Alastair Moock and Mama Steph, and science exploration with EarthView.

Outdoor Classroom
In the spring of 2012 Inly expanded its campus, adding a four-acre lot of land to be used as an Outdoor Classroom for the entire school community. On Sunflower Hill, volunteers have been busy with groundskeeping, while students and teachers utilize the space for hands-on experiential learning, science classes, gardening, bird watching, and outdoor exploration both during and after school. Each level has its own curriculum developed and implemented at all levels—from Toddler and Preschool through Middle School—for expanded experiential lessons in science and integrated curriculum studies.

There is now an Outdoor Classroom Committee, which includes faculty representatives from every level of the school. Their task is to find ways to expand the school’s curriculum and to incorporate different offerings using Sunflower Hill.

In addition, Sunflower Hill is used for school-wide events, committee meetings, and parent social gatherings.

The Year Ahead
It is very exciting to see what this year and the next 40 years will hold for Inly School. The 2013-14 academic year will most certainly be filled with insightful events, new offerings, and continued growth. Please stay tuned for my future Rhythm & News updates as the school year unfolds.

Montessori Education and Nature: What’s the connection?

 

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori

We hope that you will all able to join us for our April 3 Omran Speaker Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. This presentation has led us all at Inly to reflect on the close match between Richard Louv’s message and our mission at Inly as Montessori educators.

Montessori Philosophy: Combining indoor and outdoor classrooms

The Outdoor Classroom, nearly one year old, is already an integral part of the Inly curriculum at all levels—from Toddler through Middle School. It’s easy to think of this addition to our campus as a progressive new idea, but it’s actually rooted in a 100-year-old philosophy. Dr. Montessori was an early proponent of experiential learning and considered the outdoor environment a natural extension of the classroom. The Montessori connection makes sense: Contact with nature affords opportunities for rich sensorial experiences, a vital element of Montessori learning. It also supports the whole child—body, mind and soul—and promotes respect for all living things.

Dr. Montessori’s vision for schools was always a combination of indoor and outdoor classrooms. This was a way to study the interconnectedness of all things, a way for children to be able to study math and science, nature and the universe.

Montessori had deep reverence for the natural world, and her cosmic education curriculum, which runs from Toddler through Middle School at Inly, stresses the importance of grounding children in an understanding of themselves as a part of the greater universe.  She believed that we best develop an understanding of self when we understand the interconnectedness of all things— that true respect for self grows together with deep respect for others and for nature.

The Outdoor Classroom at Inly School: Integrating science, language arts, music and more

Our Outdoor Classroom is used extensively at all levels for many subjects—for science, language arts, music, art, practical life. We have a low ropes course for our upper grades to engage in leadership and trust activities, and outdoor music elements to enhance listening and creativity. Students are currently constructing a “secret garden” of their own as they read The Secret Garden with our school librarian and literature teacher. Each level at Inly now has its own garden. Even the toddlers have a garden of their own.

Students in Kindergarten and Lower Elementary (grades 1—3) have classes with Ellyn, an experienced and inspired naturalist, and our Upper Elementary and Middle School programs each have a trained natural scientist to weave scientific exploration and habits of mind into the all aspects of the curriculum for grades 4–8.

Outdoor Service Learning

In addition, in Upper Elementary, students begin participating in a service learning curriculum that includes partnerships with The North and South Rivers Watershed Association and Holly Hill Farm, and Middle School students leave campus for immersion experiences with the Hull Lifesaving Museum, Ocean Classroom and Heifer International’s Overlook Farm.

Integrating nature into the Inly curriculum

“Sit spots” are a good specific example of how we integrate nature into the curriculum. In Upper Elementary (grades 4, 5 and 6) students choose a spot on campus to visit each week throughout the school year.  From this vantage point they repeatedly observe their surroundings and watch how things change with the seasons. They sit with a journal and have been taught how to observe and then how to record those observations through writing, sketching, poetry. In this way, they are developing an essential scientific habit of mind – observation, but they are also being invited to do something even more rare in this age—to be still and to be present.

In Middle School (grades 7 and 8), this training continues with formal labs and lab reports;  with involvement in The Green Committee, dedicated to student initiated and implemented activities on campus to enhance Inly’s authentic commitment to green initiatives; and with “solo time,” a common component of Montessori middle school programs that deepens the practice of stillness—which is so essential, but so difficult for teens, and for us all.

To learn more…

Watch a video of outdoor experiential learning and Montessori “sit spots” here:  A Typical Day in an Upper Elementary Science Class Means Going Outside to Learn

Read an excerpt from Richard Louv’s bestseller Last Child in the Woods here: http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/excerpt/

Parting thoughts

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” – Richard Louv

Inly and South Shore Natural Science Center Advocate for Outdoor Learning

While Inly marks its 40th anniversary this year, its Norwell neighbor, the South Shore Natural Science Center, is celebrating its 50th! The parent education talk with Richard Louv is just one highlight of the center’s celebration, but a very meaningful one.

Outdoor education speaker at Inly School

Best-selling author Richard Louv to speak in parent education series at Inly School

Folks from Inly and the Science Center came together to sponsor this talk, connected by a shared mission and similar core values. Read more about that in our news story in the Inly Mashup:

“Last Child in the Woods” Author to Discuss Nature Deficit Disorder, Child Development and the Role of Technology at Inly School on April 3

Both educational institutions believe that active, hands-on exploration outdoors fosters children’s natural curiosity and helps them gain a meaningful understanding of the world around them.

Conversation about Outdoor Play, Nature-Based Experiential Education and our Common Mission

We spoke with Tracey Merrill, executive director of the Science Center, about her goals for the upcoming talk on April 3rd.

Q: What do you hope people take away from this talk?

A: My hope for our members and visitors, students and families, anyone attending the talk, is that we all move to get kids outside—the earlier the better…exploring and discovering everything that nature has to offer.

I’d like us all to hear Richard’s message about how easily we are all distracted by technology…. and that there are tangible effects on kids. He makes a very compelling case about the rise in obesity, distractibility, social detachment… He wakes us up to the fact that we raise our children indoors…. to the fact that kids don’t know how to build tree houses or to use tools anymore.

There’s so much confidence and independence that comes with unstructured outdoor play. And learning as well. Skills like sequencing and numeracy and very connected to nature-based education.

South Shore Natural Science Center Norwell MAAbout the South Shore Natural Science Center

The South Shore Natural Science Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the natural and cultural environments of the South Shore. Their mission is to provide natural science experiences that educate, excite, and commit every generation to preserve the environment and to encourage responsible use, stewardship and enjoyment of our natural resources. For more information, visit southshorenaturalsciencecenter.org.