Let’s face it: We know that being outside provides a plethora of benefits — but factors such as weather, busy schedules and lack of outdoor opportunities keep us from spending as much time outdoors as we know we should. Experts agree that spending time outdoors delivers a range of physical and mental benefits. According to author and clinical psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison, time spent outdoors stimulates creativity, reduces anxiety, promotes problem-solving and leadership skills, helps children recognize patterns, increases vocabulary and improves immune systems.
Brooksfield’s charming five-acre campus provides an outdoor classroom where children profit on a daily basis from opportunities to engage with nature: nature walks, spontaneous outdoor investigation, art classes in the gazebo or in the garden, wildlife observation, playground time and gardening – a chance to literally reap what they sow.
“On Brooksfield’s peaceful trail, we ask the children to pay attention to the sounds they hear: birds, the wind, leaves crunching under their shoes. Then we shift our attention to feeling the warm sun on our skin or the wind moving across their skin,” reflects Claire Wright, a head teacher in the Lower School. “We stop every once in a while to just look around and share what we see. This is a time when children get so excited and they really see the beauty of nature; the nature right outside their school! We often see deer, squirrels, animal tracks, different kinds of birds, flowers and trees.”
Virginia Ward, Brooksfield’s (Upper School) Art Teacher and Organic Gardening Specialist, remembers a time when children experienced a special moment: “This summer we grew purple teepee beans in the LS gardens. One morning the preschoolers came out to pick the ripe beans. They were beautiful on the vine and easy to see and pluck off. We then washed the beans and placed them in a thermos of hot water and sealed the lid. Each child got a chance to gently shake the thermos while we predicted what color the beans would be when we opened the lid. “Red, blue, purple!”, they shouted. We opened the lid and emptied the beans into a wide colander. “they’re green!”, one toddler squealed, “Nature is magic!”
In each season, Brooksfield students experience the benefits of the outdoors so that when they enter the classroom, their minds are fully engaged and their bodies are calm.
“Please give me time to experience my world. Let me touch a tree and smell the rain, see the sunset and hear the birds. Then when I read and write those words, I will understand what they truly mean.” – Author Unknown