When I heard there was a school sending kids outside for three hours a day, every day, I figured it had to be in some tropical clime. Then I heard upstate New York.
As a native, born and raised in New York, I had to ask: what are they nuts? Second: is this child abuse?
Turns out the answers are no and no. The “forest kindergarten” as it’s been termed is the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs’ attempt to take the outdoor classroom to the next level.
Other schools let kids walk through a garden now and again. According to a New York Times profile on the Saratoga Springs school, the kids in forest kindergarten spend three hours wandering state parkland, splashing in puddles, cutting vines to fashion wreaths and playing in the sandbox. Even when it’s raining. Or snowing.
And in case you haven’t heard, it snows in upstate New York. A lot.
Maybe it’s my perpetual state of being frozen (I wear sweatshirts in mid-summer, and yes, I’ve seen the doctor – my circulation is fine) or my yearning for my old life down south. But I can’t think of anything worse.
Sure, an outdoor classroom sounds fantastic. If a Waldorf school was closer (and cheaper), I might even sign my daughter up for a less hardcore version, one in which they embrace nature without succumbing to it. A teacher who recognizes the pureness of splashing in puddles at five is my kind of teacher.
But there’s something to be said for modern conveniences, among them shelter from the elements. Three hours, to me, sounds a bit much, at least in light of inclement weather. How about half an hour in the rain, for optimum puddle splashing and feeling the droplets on your nose, followed by a solid rest of the day indoors in front of big windows?
Or ten minutes rolling in the snow, followed by indoor examination of petri dishes filled with the white stuff?
The outdoors provide an incredible amount of learning opportunities – from the traditional count the trees for your math lesson to the more artistic “look at the way those branches fan out.”
But isn’t there too much of a good thing?
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