Eleven years ago West Side Christian School science teacher Brian Dyk suddenly passed away before his vision of using the school’s five-acre natural area as a learning environment was realized. He loved the intricacies and the beauty of science and he encouraged his students to see the Creator all around them. He would often say, “How can you look outside and not see God?!”
After his death, The Brian Dyk Nature Preserve, named in his memory, struggled with potential habitat and biodiversity loss due to encroaching invasive Buckthorn. Then a community-wide invasive species removal project reignited the vision of that space and it now serves as the outdoor classroom space for our Nature Preschool program!
Our nearby natural areas are now being used as Brian Dyk had envisioned – as a tool to engage students in meaningful, hands-on, nature-based learning. Now our students regularly experience the wonder of God’s creation by exploring and learning through the diverse habitats that surround the school campus.
We’ve been transforming these natural areas over the past four years, and our partnership with nearby Blandford Nature Center has helped us utilize these as outdoor classroom areas. We’re also thrilled that our collaborative Nature Preschool is expanding this year!
This year we’re excited to announce an expansion of our nature-based learning opportunities for all of our students with the addition to our staff of Mrs. Janet Staal as the Director of Nature-based/ Outdoor Education at West Side Christian School.
“Outdoor learning creates a unique way for students to explore and understand their world around them. Students get hands-on experience and expand their knowledge of what is learned in their classroom,” said Principal An Kurosu, in explaining the value of creating this new position.
With the addition of Mrs. Staal to the staff at West Side Christian, we’re excited about the many opportunities this opens up for all of our students here:
- The outdoors is a powerful tool that provides motivation, excitement, wonder, as well as real-life-lasting-learning moments through integrated interdisciplinary experiences, such as our second-graders recently experienced when using the garden and the colors, sights, sounds, and textures of nature in learning about adjectives
- Children develop critical thinking, cooperative and problem-solving skills and minds open to discovery, questioning and a sense of wonder, like our fourth graders did last week when learning about organisms surviving in their environments
- West Side Christian will continue partnering with Blandford Nature Center to utilize the biodiverse habitats as a resource that provide intentional interdisciplinary learning opportunities for our students, like our middle schoolers experienced last week, under Mrs. Staal’s direction
- We embrace the opportunity to expand the classroom beyond the walls of our building and intentionally introduce the children entrusted to our care to the beauty and wonder of the created world - and to the Creator of this amazing world in which we live, like our art students have been doing regularly this fall.
Ultimately, while learning outdoors students receive the gift of a connection to the Creator through His creation.