Outdoor education is an essential part of Waldorf education and the Waldorf school day. Here at Spring Garden Waldorf School, children are sent outdoors to play and learn a minimum of three times per day – rain or shine, cold or hot. Children at our school take gardening as a special subject; often have science and gym class outside, and main lesson teachers spend much time outdoors to reinforce what’s being learned in main lesson.
We also take our students camping, but why? Although it’s great fun and inspires camaraderie, there are academic and developmental reasons we take our 4th through 8th graders camping.
Fourth graders are experiencing an important developmental shift – they are beginning to see themselves as individuals in the larger world. At around age 9 and 10, children separate more fully from their parents, question all they encounter, and look for “real” experiences so they can test their growing abilities.
This is the perfect time to leave home, experience nature, and learn among its challenges. For many students, the fourth grade trip represents their first time away from home with a group of peers. Outdoor education experiences that occur during the trip help children gain courage, compassion, and cooperation.
Children get to go horseback riding, canoeing, climbing, and participating in sports like archery and team building games. Camp counselors are professionals in their given outdoor fields and teach students purposefully, exposing our kids to enviable skills that adults bring to the world. This is a great experience for older children to be taught by others who are not teachers by trade.
And, in the larger scope, being out in nature and camping allows us all to connect with the natural order and the world in which we live. Students gain perspective from being outdoors and also learn in new ways about scientific phenomena, sustainable living and much more.