By George Spencer
The Climate Corps Education Outside program is planting the seeds of science and ecoliteracy to grow environmental leaders. We open the classroom door to school gardens that get students connected to the ecosystem around them. Our outdoor classrooms are living laboratories and our students are scientists, who observe their environments, take risks, and drive their own learning through inquiry based lessons.
While the outdoor classroom certainly provides the space for science learning, it also has the hidden benefit of being a bastion of social emotional relief and respite for student regulation and grounding, helping students build inner resilience for a complex world. Sarah Grossman-Kahn is a second year CCEO Fellow, who is passionate about creating this space of refuge for students in her garden classroom. Sarah shared this story with us, from before COVID-19, when Bay Area schools were still open:
"One day at garden recess, I was supervising some students exploring the perennial garden. One 1st grader approached me and told me that when she daydreamed, she pretended that she was in the garden. She explained to me that she imagined the beauty of plants and flowers as a way to calm down and feel inspired. I reflect on this moment daily, in awe of the tenderness and thoughtfulness that this 7 year old showed toward the garden. What was especially important to me about this moment was it represented a relationship with nature that we must restore. In order for us to move forward as members of a global ecology, we must understand nature as refuge, as something that takes care of us so that we in turn feel the responsibility and obligation to take care of it."
While schools are still closed, we are looking for ways to get kids safely and equitably outside. We know that as schools consider reopening outdoor classrooms are not just physically safest for students during a pandemic, but are also the most emotionally supportive environment for students to learn in. In school gardens, students are able to co-regulate with the world around them through imagination, observation, and play.