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Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

Photo: Visit Samso
This Danish island makes use of woods, water, and fields for school outdoors.

Erik’s Swedish/Danish niece and nephews live in Copenhagen and went back to school quite a long time ago. The youngest went first, taking his seat in a classroom full of Covid-19 protections. Meanwhile, in other parts of Denmark, outdoor learning is getting increased attention.

Rick Noack writes at the Washington Post, “On a balmy Monday afternoon earlier this month, Sebastian Lukas, 27, watched from across a clearing as his third- and fourth-grade students whittled branches into spearheads with sharp knives.

“His gaze turned to another group, who were supposed to be working on math problems. Two students, perched on a log, scrambled to produce their textbooks, just in time to look busy.

“Lukas began the year teaching in a classroom like any other, in Samso Frie Skole, a school on the Danish island of Samso. But when the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, the school, like many across the country, embraced a new way to hold certain classes: almost entirely outdoors.

“Instead of sitting at desks, Lukas’s students wander through a rambling woodland, lush with trees and crisscrossed by dirt tracks. …

“Some countries, including Germany, have a tradition of outdoor preschools and kindergartens, which have begun to catch on in the United States as well. The pandemic may drive more countries to experiment with the model for older students. …

“Samso, a sparsely populated, energy self-sufficient and carbon-neutral 44-square-mile island that was once a meeting point for Vikings, is a windy, hour-long trip by ferry from the mainland village of Hou.

“The Samso Frie Skole — a private school funded, like many others in Denmark, in large part through public grants — first pondered the move outdoors long before the pandemic. Coronavirus accelerated those plans.

“The new, forested area, surrounded by grain fields, includes old farmhouses, where students will be able to take shelter in bad weather, according to principal Anna Mattsson.

“ ‘It’s going to be a combination of indoors and outdoors,’ she said. The aim is to have students learn outside several times a week, with fluctuations based on weather.

“No one at the school said they were worried about the impending winter.

“ ‘We’re used to it,’ said Rikke Ulk, the chair of the school’s support association. ‘It’s a matter of dressing well.’

“Until the new buildings are ready, students must walk or bike more than a mile from their old classrooms to their new forest school. Teachers haul some of the younger children in carts affixed to bicycles.

“Milling about before one such shuttle ride on a September morning, Noa, 11, said she liked the new school setup. It’s ‘just so beautiful — it makes me happy,’ she said. …

“Some said they preferred certain aspects of learning inside. ‘Sometimes, it’s better just being in the classroom, so we can focus,’ said Sally, 12.

“Cian, 9, an aspiring cook or robot engineer, disagreed. ‘It’s better to be here,’ he said, holding his math book. ‘It’s cozier.’

“Lukas said outdoor class works better for some students than others. ‘But some kids who have a hard time sitting love to come out here,’ he said, and some students who struggled to focus on math indoors have shown aptitude outside. …

“One of the most commonly accepted Danish arguments in favor of outdoor schooling centers on health benefits, said Mads Bolling, a researcher at the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen. Students are able to avoid the adverse affects of sitting still all day.

“But he cautioned that potential disadvantages are not yet fully understood, and some research suggests outdoor schooling appears to provide the most for children who are already highly motivated. …

“Even if outdoor class may not be practical for all schools or in all climates, said Bolling, it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Samso Frie Skole plans to be flexible about which classes meet outside and which do not.” More here.

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It rained hard at noon, but the stalwarts opening booths for the first farmers market of the season hung on and before long the weather cleared, and it was sunny and warm.

Today I’m posting some recent outdoor photos from Massachusetts and Rhode Island and thinking particularly how seed pods, the smell of lilacs, and small landscapers make me happy.

twisted-tree

early-blooms

more-lilacs

rhododendren-and-lichen

tulips

steeple

more-pods

pods

landscaping-truck

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My friend Jean Devine is always up to something interesting. A Brown U grad, with an MBA from Simmons, she used to work in investor relations but in recent years has been testing the waters of social entrepreneurship.

Her latest initiative, with Barbara Passero of Sandpiper Creative, is called meadowscaping and is intriguing on many levels.

With access to a Waltham church lawn for a summer youth program, Jean and Barbara will work with kids to convert the yard into a meadow that uses native species from Garden in the Woods and provides a habitat to the bugs and other small creatures that make a healthy environment.

From the Meadowscaping for Biodiversity website: Meadowscaping “is an outdoor, project-based, environmental education program that provides middle school youth with real-world experiences in STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), while inspiring and empowering them to address challenges to the environment and our society.

“Today, few children spend time experiencing Nature and the benefits of outdoor recreation, education, and contemplation. Founder and former Director of the Children and Nature Network (C& NN) Richard Louv coined the phrase nature-deficit disorder to describe the negative effects of reduced outdoor time on children’s development. …

“Children who spend little time outdoors may value nature less than children who spend time outdoors in free play. Similarly, children who feel part of something bigger than themselves may … understand their dependence on a clean environment and know that they are responsible for caring for the Earth as their home.” More here.

The idea behind the meadowscaping summer program is that children, both at a young age and as they become adults, can actually do something about the environment.

Remember our post “The Doctor Is In” about the woman who sets up in a Providence park to listen to your worries about global warming (here)? Stop worrying and do something, say the meadowscape entrepreneurs. Give up lawn chemicals, plant a meadow, provide a home for tiny necessary critters, and work to make change.

white-iris-in-morning

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The Street Pianos are in Boston and getting some enthusiastic use. Today was a lovely day to be outside, and I saw several people of varying skill levels playing the two pianos in Dewey Square.

Occupy Boston’s time in the square having failed to do anything to change the tragedy of homelessness, a loose-knit fraternity were hanging out, listening to the music or taking a turn. A group of us from work went over to hear an economist/musician play duets with strangers and then start taking requests.

Since the pianos are supposed to stay outdoors in Boston until October 14 — sunshine, rain, or snow — several colleagues were wondering about how the Celebrity Series folks, who are sponsoring them, intend to keep the pianos safe. We concluded that the huge pieces of plastic nearby were placed there in the faith that public-spirited passerby would do the right thing in case of a cloudburst.

It was a beautiful day for a work break singing Gospel, rock, “Climb Every Mountain, and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (for a toddler in a stroller whose mom stopped to watch).

092613-girl-plays-street-piano

Economist-plays-street-piano

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On the radio show “Living on Earth,” Bruce Gllerman interviewed Antioch education professor David Sobel recently about helping kids grow up to care about nature.

“Research shows that adults who are strong environmental stewards were allowed to explore nature unfettered as kids. …  Sobel says educators are too focused on rules and making sure that students learn correct scientific terms instead letting kids be kids. …

“SOBEL: Kids should have alone time in the woods. If it gets crazy, then there should be some adult intervention. … There needs to be a large quotient of being outdoors, in the meadows and in the woods, as well as the more didactic, pictorial experience of IMAX and National Geographic.

“GELLERMAN: So basically, take the kid kayaking.

“SOBEL: Take the kid kayaking. Take the kid berry-picking.

“GELLERMAN: Well, [with] a lot of parents — you say ‘berry-picking’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, they’ll pick something poisonous!’ I know I take my kid mushrooming, and I tell other parents, and they look at me like ‘Oh my God, should we call the police on this guy?’

“SOBEL: Exactly. It’s fascinating how shocked and disapproving other parents are about [that] kind of behavior. … One of the things in childhood that seems to shape environmental behaviors in adulthood is parents taking their kids mushroom picking and berry picking: selecting a natural resource for consumption …

“GELLERMAN: You know, Professor, if I were asked, I could trace my environmentalism to when I was just maybe four years old. And my mother gave me a spoon, put me in the garden, and I started digging to China. Do you have a memory like that?

“SOBEL: The analogous memory that I recount is a snow day when I was about eight years old. And my friends and I decided we would play this game where they were gonna go off and I was gonna to follow them fifteen minutes later. And in the midst of tromping through waist-deep snow all by myself, my glasses were fogging up, I had one of those little epiphany moments: that I was out here, all by myself, in the snowy wilderness, and wasn’t this great! It’s a recurrent phenomenon that kids have these great moments, somewhere in early to middle childhood, that often connect them to the natural world.”

More at the website, where you also can listen to the recording of the interview.

Photo: Flickr CC/your neighborhood librarian
Walking in the woods. 

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