By Rebecca Holcombe, Director of Community Programs
On a recent sunny November morning, students from four different New Haven Public Schools arrived by yellow school bus to join us for outdoor learning and adventures. Fifth graders from Columbus School made pizza with ingredients they harvested from the learning garden. Third graders from Davis Street School hiked West Rock trails and learned about native wildlife. Second graders from King Robinson dug soil samples from the forest, farm, and fields and thought like scientists to identify a fourth mystery soil. Preschoolers from King Robinson School joined us for a Nature Playdate field trip, where the objective is learning through play as the children mixed up mud soup, dug in the sandbox, banged on the music wall, and moved toys in baskets and pulleys.
At the same time, the NatureYear forest school students were shelling beans, making tire obstacle courses, and building forts in the woods, followed by circling up to hear the teachers share the Nature Note of the day. As the field trip program moved up into the woods, the NatureYear students hit the trail and enjoyed a day long hike to West Rock Summit, with meditation, poetry, and games along the way.
Meanwhile, our CT Schoolyards team was busy bringing outdoor learning directly into New Haven Public Schools! CT Schoolyards Program Coordinators led all the first graders at Celentano through a lesson on living and non-living things in their courtyard school garden; squeals of delight could be heard as little hands turned over soil to find worms and pill bugs. After lunch, the CT Schoolyards team worked with fifth graders at King Robinson to solarize the garden beds and make hypotheses about whether the black or opaque plastic would be more effective at weed control. In the afternoon, our Green Jobs Corps Student Crew headed to Conte West Hills and Clemente to help put put their school gardens to bed for the winter.
Later in the day, children arrived by yellow bus from schools all over New Haven, joining us for the Kids Unplugged after school program. Now that the sun sets early, the last hour of our program is in the dark! We may be the only place in New Haven where, well after sunset, children are enjoying the special magic of a hike by flashlight, a sunset campfire, or storytelling by lantern light in a cabin in the woods.
In just one typical November day, the on-campus and off-campus work of our Children’s Programs engaged 287 children and 24 adults in learning, playing, and discovering joy in nature!