With more than 90 acres of fields, streams, and woods just outside their classroom doors, Independence teachers understand the value of outdoor education and they make the most of our amazing campus! The possibilities for content-rich lessons are as limitless as the sky itself. Streams are live science labs, plants and flowers inspire works of art. When learning outdoors, sticks and branches become measurement tools. Old paths and trails allow students to explore the history of the land and wonder about those who may have come before them. Plus, a large and growing body of research on the topic of outdoor education affirms that integrating outside time into the school day strengthens learning in all academic areas and is essential to students' overall health and well-being.
Sometimes I take planned lessons—reading, writing, art—outside, but my favorite thing to do with the kids is take them out for free exploration. I follow their lead and am amazed by the discussions they have with their peers and the ideas they come up with. This freedom to explore their surroundings teaches them how to constantly evaluate and manage risks—‘How high can I climb this tree? Is that rock stable enough to step on?’—which also makes them more resilient and better risk-takers academically and in life.
First Grade Teacher
Introducing the Funk Outdoor Classroom
In September 2021, The Independence School opened an amazing outdoor classroom, inspired by our partnership with Nature Explore, an organization offering research-based outdoor classroom conceptualization services and educator workshops, and designed by Jonathan Ceci Landscape Architects. The outdoor classroom consists of 14 distinct play and learning areas on more than 57,600 square feet adjacent to our Early Childhood-Kindergarten classrooms.
Our unique outdoor classroom design incorporates a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and grasses native to our region with learning spaces to inspire creativity, exploration, hands-on activities, movement, music and more. The space is enriched with natural materials such as logs, boulders and plantings. Pathways are being surfaced with a variety of materials to accommodate wheeled toy vehicles.
We are proud to have also partnered with the Challenge Program of Wilmington, which provides vocational training to at-risk youth in the fabrication and construction of many of the wooden features.