The Young Naturalist program connects our Lower School students to the wonder of the natural world through outdoor journeys that foster knowledge, love, and a sense of place.
Each journey directly connects grade level curricula to the natural world by bridging with current classroom units around the areas of environmental science, social studies, measurement, writing, and drawing, as well as to the social-emotional curriculum. Classes go on journeys, both on-campus and off-campus at least once a month and in all kinds of weather. Once in fourth grade, students finish their naturalist experience with a capstone year as a Naturalist/Adventurer.
In addition to journeys, we have Forest Days. Classes have at least one Forest Day each season (two per season in kindergarten) and spend an entire day at the Lodge, an old Girl Scout cabin in Warner Park with a large, wooded area surrounding it. Students spend time in open exploration, written reflection and in a focused field study. Starting in second grade, students begin cooking in a Dutch oven.
With the addition of Forest Days, we have seen children thrive in many remarkable ways. Children show an increased comfort level in the unpredictability of being in the outdoors, a willingness to problem-solve on their own, and a desire to explore levels of personal risks with courage, bringing an improved sense of self-confidence and self-reliance.
Through the Young Naturalist Program, students not only broaden their love and understanding of the natural world but also see how what they are learning in the classroom has meaning beyond the classroom walls.