One of the elementary schools in the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District is transitioning to an outdoor learning model. Gatewood Elementary, part of the Hopkins school district, has been holding classes outside most days this school year.
This is the first year of the school’s outdoor kindergarten program. All 75 kindergarten students in the school participate. Next year they’re hoping to have first graders in the program as well. And by the 2023-2024 school year, they want to start transitioning the entire elementary to an outdoor, play-and-inquiry-based, environment-focused school.
Their outdoor learning is flexible based on the weather, and is supported by teachers, staff, and parents. Jim Ikhaml is the schools’ newly hired naturalist, who supports teachers by creating curriculum and activities that are standards based.
The District has worked with Gatewood in the past, and is looking forward to continuing to work with them as more classes transition to outdoor learning. Studies show that access to the outdoors improves physical and mental health, both for children and adults, and that being outside can also help students focus better on learning. Below are some resources, including access to research papers, books for families and parents, and other ideas to get you (and your family) outside.
Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv: Saving our children from Nature Deficit Disorder (book, published 2005)
Finding Urban Nature, from National Geographic: nationalgeographic.org/idea/finding-urban-nature/
Take to the outdoors! MPR news story
Three Rivers Park District: many parks around the metro area, offering programs, rentals, lessons, and more! threeriversparks.org
Volunteer opportunities with Nine Mile Creek Watershed District
Adopt a Drain: mn.adopt-a-drain.org/
Salt Watch: ninemilecreek.org/saltwatch/