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You Can Do It: Taking Kids out of the Classroom

Originally appears in the Summer 2016 issue

After chaperoning the first day of The Wild Society’s Young Naturalists Program, in which dozens of Kindergarten and first graders explored the forest around their school – discovering a raccoon latrine site and some stinging nettle – the executive director turned to me and said, “That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life!” I smiled. While research is plentiful on the proven developmental and brain boosting benefits of play, nature exploration, and place-based education, it can be an intimidating endeavor to take a group of students out of the classroom and set them loose in the world.

Opportunities for place-based learning are accessible to every teacher in every community – whether you have access to a multi-acre park or a crack in the sidewalk, an art museum or a grocery store. While educators have legitimate concerns about the logistics of engaging a group of students outside the classroom, this should not act as a deterrent. As a result of facilitating place-based educational experiences for over a decade – on farms, in forests, around town, and even at a wastewater treatment plant – here is my advice for educators who plan to take students out of the classroom. These time-tested strategies can create unforgettable educational experiences for students in a supportive learning environment.

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Mallory Primm is founder of Feather and Bone, LLC, a nature education consultancy, based on the west coast. While she works as a freelance educator during the school year, in the summer, Mallory is a Naturalist-Guide at Camp Denali and the North Face Lodge in Denali National Park in Alaska.