It’s a Monday morning, and children from a kindergarten class in central Vermont are out in the woods building with sticks and logs, running around, and speaking several volumes above what is acceptable in the typical library. For these lucky kids, this outdoor adventure isn’t a one-off, special field trip: it’s Forest Monday, the day each week where they take their learning out of the classroom. Their teacher Eliza Minucci had watched a documentary on a forest school and felt her young charges, especially the boys, could benefit from more devoted outdoor time. With the unexpected approval of the principal at her public school, Minucci went ahead with this outdoor educational approach and has continued to do so for the past two years, bringing along a parent volunteer as well as an additional teacher (whose pay is covered with a grant).
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But Forest Monday isn’t just sword fights with sticks and swinging from trees: kids often end up learning classroom concepts, like using sticks to spell letters. They spend time each week in designated “sit spots” where they observe nature and remark on its differences from the previous week. They also learn off-the-books gems such as teamwork and the idea that there is more to education (and self-worth, for that matter) than just test scores.
For those of you wondering how the students fared in Minucci’s classroom: last year’s test results increased more than ever. While the teacher quickly acknowledges that there are a variety of variables to account for that increase, the loss of indoor classroom time certainly didn’t cause any damage, and what was gained by the students was undoubtedly less testable, yet priceless.