At the beginning of every school year, I find myself grateful that our kids get to be outside for their lessons and activities. Fall is a beautiful time of year, and just when the weather is cooling off and offering a reprieve from the hot and humid D.C. weather, most kids have to go back to school. At City Kids, we have a fantastic inside space available to us, and having an inside space is definitely useful for certain projects. But when we can be outside, we take our materials and conduct our classes in nature, surrounded by trees where the kids have fresh air and all the dirt they can wish for (because our kids LOVE dirt). The kids get to take their breaks running in grass or playing by a stream. And they learn an important lesson--learning happens everywhere; the world is a classroom.
During one of our classes for our unit on Indigenous People in North America, our lead parent suggested we meet in Rock Creek Park. She brought her globe, armfuls of books, and materials for the lesson. The kids learned a game that early Native American kids played that involves keeping a small sack in the air without using hands, and they listened to some early Native American stories about how crops developed. They also learned the differences in the lives of farmers, hunters who migrated, and caretakers in early Native American cultures. The kids were asked who they think they would like to be, a farmer, a caretaker, or a hunter on the move; after, they were challenged to build a house that would work for their lifestyle. They had to find materials in nature all around them to build models of their homes. Using what they learned about the different life styles, they knew just what to do; for example, they knew that if they were from a migratory culture, they would need a design and materials that could easily be disassembled and transported. The kids paired up on their own and helped each other engineer their houses, with some kids running back and forth to the stream to get water to make mud for insulation or stability. They worked diligently for over an hour (and they were not even finished!). The kids were clearly invested in their projects as evidenced by how much they thought about structure, functionality, and aesthetics. Proudly, they presented their houses to the group, explaining what they made. It was impressive, to say the least.
We hold many classes and activities outside, including our Capoeira lessons and a great deal of our field trips, and the kids clearly feel happy and content being in nature while learning. For some people who have never homeschooled, it can be difficult to understand how kids learn every day if they do not go to the same school building with four walls. But here at City Kids, we know learning has nothing to do with being in a building--that is merely geography.