Enjoying Our Outdoor Classroom

By LeeAnn Newman, Lower School Faculty
Exploring the outdoors and spending time in nature has been a passion of mine my entire life. With two parents who are avid birders and nature enthusiasts, I learned at an early age the joy and adventure of being immersed in the woods. When I first started teaching at Crescent, I was thrilled to discover that our school property includes a section of the Toronto ravine system – a beautiful, healthy and diverse ecosystem. It fueled my passion to impart my love and knowledge of the natural world with my students.
I take my boys into Crescent’s ravine as much as possible, teaching them about the variety of life forms living in our backyard and exposing them to the beauty of the natural world. The boys’ curiosity and excitement upon discovering something new is incredible. I have seen their compassion for insects, caterpillars and small amphibians, their awe at spotting a white-tailed deer down the trail, their amazement at finding fresh coyote prints in the mud, and their wonder at seeing a red-tailed hawk circle overhead. They proudly become their own teachers, sharing their knowledge with me and each other as they learn to identify trees and shrubs, fungi, bird calls and creatures.

More than ever, I believe our boys benefit from spending time disconnected from technology and more connected to the natural world. Getting them outside is more than a sneaky way of giving them exercise. In the classroom, I see the positive results of our nature walks. The boys return content, focused, more settled into the classroom setting and with a strong desire to get back outside for another walk as soon as possible.

I also take joy in seeing the boys’ personal relationships flourish in the outdoor setting. They become a bit of a pack, a fearless team of young explorers, eager to discover something new around the next corner.

And if our ravine adventures cause a boy to consider the natural world a little bit more as he grows up, and he becomes an advocate for conservation and protection of creatures and habitats great and small, that makes it all worth it for me in the end.

Read more Crescent Voices blog posts