The Otto Specht School Blog

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The Outdoor Classroom

We cross the creek with its melancholy meander or cheerful gurgling; up the hill and through fields, now browning, singed from frost - past the great, old oak whose leaves, curled, stiff, and brown, hang on with determination, long past the baring of maple, walnut, or poplar.  Where did the acorns go that pelted the ground last week? The chattering squirrels, scolding us for stopping too long by the oak have them hidden away for winter. Some they will forget and new oak trees will grow. From here we turn into the woods towards Indian Rock, where we stop to climb or rest before continuing on to further fields, the fields where the cows came to graze in the early fall.  Familiarity has changed these places, made them ours. We know them - even when the leaves are gone, and nothing remains but the unclothed structure of our landscape.

Outdoors, in forests and fields, our lessons are ever-present. They do not dwell in the realm of theory and abstraction. The children remain awake to each other and to their surroundings. They problem solve, help each other, and follow along – not simply because the teacher has created a set of instructions, but because the group is moving, because the water below is wet, because something else is around the next bend. One student, jovial and animated, leads the others in trail songs. Even the melancholy, hard to move middle schooler joins in the song as he helps another student, less agile, less sure of herself, across the creek. Students begin to open up, to breathe more easily, to quiet the chatter. Under the canopy of leaves, one student, often holding her arms close to herself, opens them wide and, looking upwards, twirls with the falling leaves. Some students fly through the forest, seamlessly hurtling fallen trees, while others choose their footing carefully along the path. When a band of deer comes in sight, we all stop in silence, watching them pass as though witnessing a magical spectacle. And we were – but the spectacle the deer were witnessing was just as magical; the unstrained silence of a group of students, forgetting their differences, unhindered by their challenges.

In Their Words: 

"This week the weather became cool. Now that it's sunny I like to play outside and go hiking. The leaves are changing colors and falling from the trees. The geese are flying north. It's good weather for weeding and harvesting." Giancarlo Young, 16