The school’s interest in outdoor learning is not new. In fact, Independence committed to the idea of exploring outdoor opportunities in its 2011 Strategic Plan. “We realized we have all this land and began asking why we weren’t doing more with it,” explains Head of School Vicky Yatzus. “You can have a treasure at your doorstep and miss its potential.”
That Strategic Plan led to the school’s highly successful partnership with the Stroud Water Research Center. Then came the idea for the outdoor classroom, with the understanding that this would be part of a larger initiative. Before that could take shape, however, a disruption on a historical scale arrived in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Suddenly, we were learning outside not because it represented a breakthrough in approach,” says Yatzus, “but to help keep our students distanced and safe.”
The pandemic took what had been a thoughtful evolution in education and radically accelerated it. However, unlike virtually every other twist the pandemic brought, this was a good thing.
“As we found ourselves outside more and more, the benefits became more and more clear,” says Spanish and French teacher Josée Spence. “What a silver lining this proved to be.”