Can you still picture your elementary classrooms? In addition to developing content skills in reading, writing, Bible, science, math, social studies, Spanish, art, and physical education, our students experience integrating their content skills while learning immersed in their outdoor classroom. You’re invited to join in the learning adventure. We want to give you a peek at what learning looks like for WSCS students today.
Okay, imagine going back to school and being a part of WSCS. You’ll also have to put on some imaginative outdoor gear as you will have to walk back outside to learn. Not all of these experiences would occur on one school day, rather we’ll be fast-forwarding throughout the seasons so you’ll really catch a glimpse of how God uses this special place to teach His children.
As a young learner, you’re active and learn through exploration and play. So we start out our day in the nature-based preschool outside. While playing outside you’re curious, “Who left these tracks and even some scat in the fresh white snow.” This discovery fuels your motivation to find out more. As you take a hike with your class you find even more tracks and scat, You take those discoveries with you when entering the classroom. Here’s where you learn more about your discovery – the type of animal that made the tracks and left scat – as you strengthen your number senses as you count and record the number of model scat (if you think about it Cocoa Puffs really do look like rabbit scat).
Now you’re in kindergarten. It’s a full day at school, but your whole day will not be contained in the four walls of the classroom. WSCS has a forest school component to its day. Your winter forest classroom is full of animal tracks. As a kindergartener, you’re observing more of the pattern to how animals move. Some animals walk, others seem to waddle and since you’re in kindergarten you want to move like the animals do so go ahead, move to your sight words like a waddling skunk.
In second grade you get your very own swamp to sit spot – you even have a stump buddy – where you will return to each season. When you’re there you’ll be using your senses to record your observations in your green journal. As a 2nd grader, you’re working to improve your writing skills by adding adjectives. Here’s a sentence your classmate came up with this year. Rather than just writing, “I saw a bird.” He wrote, “I watched the downy woodpecker jump from branch to branch and it flew from tree to tree.” He went on to add, “We walked through the cold crisp air down to our sit spots.”
Third grade is the year you get to investigate Michigan history as you read chapter books, and improve your non-fiction reading skills. What really fuels your engagement and excitement to find out more is when you get to time travel back to the time when there used to be one-roomed school houses and log cabin homes. Our WSCS school buses serve as our time machine, bringing you and your friends to Blandford Nature Center.
As a fourth-grader, your science studies start the year of studying ecosystems and environments. You venture out to Blandford Nature Center to investigate the varied and diverse ecosystems. God’s creation WOWs you as you record your observations of countless turtles, frogs, birds, and insects. You uncover more understanding about the special native plants, the producers, that fuel the food chain survival game happening before your eyes.
Through the power of your imagination, in fifth grade, WSCS gets taken over by the British, and you and your fellow Continental army soldiers are forced to make camp at Valley Forge otherwise known as our school’s nature preserve. You’ll need to survive the harsh conditions and through the challenges grow to appreciate the sacrifice of those that gave their lives for the freedom we now experience today.
Now that you’re in Middle School you’re taking more responsibility to help care for God’s world. Weekly you nurture our school’s young salmon that will be released into the Grand River and help lead our schools recycling efforts. In the process, you’re making connections to higher-level science content and valuable life skills. You also have opportunities to discover more about your interests as you choose an exploratory. One of which gets you working with tools as you take our forest’s invasive buckthorn and build a hallway bench.
We thank God for how the community has come together to support His vision for WSCS. In case you missed reading, check out the history of our outdoor education program. Next in the series we’ll be sharing what parents and students have to say, and the developing hoop house news. In addition, we’ve got some news of how God is using WSCS to impact outdoor education happening through other West Michigan schools.
Read more: Growing God’s Creation Classroom – A History