“What I find with the outdoor classroom, in the first 2-3 weeks, the kids come back to me a lot. ‘Should I, can I…’ And I say ‘you have to figure that out, that’s your job out here.’ Their empathy really just increases so much because they learn to depend on one another outside. I always send them back to each other. I’m there as a resource of last resort but I really encourage them to depend on each other and they do.

There is a fallen tree that they climb, walk the length of, and at some point—wherever they feel comfortable—they jump off. By the end they’re jumping off the end which is probably 3 ½ ft off the ground, a big jump for them. They are so proud of themselves when they finally get to the end and are able to jump off. They figure that out, where they feel safe to jump. Their confidence, independence, their decision-making skills, are so improved and I see it in the classroom. Even if it’s deciding what kind of paper to use, they are much more assertive in their decision making.

Don’t be disappointed if at first they come back to you a lot, constantly checking in, asking questions. I’d have to remind them ‘you can do it!’ That will pass. Just watch. Because they will start to drift away from you and start to explore and be interested in the nature around them, and PLAY out there!” 

-Mary Irons, Kindergarten Teacher, Strafford School, Strafford NH

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