In 2016, when Stella Niagara Education Park decided to integrate outdoor education into its curriculum, educators had no idea how fortuitous this decision would be.
The board of directors made the decision after reviewing research that showed students who learn outdoors are happier, healthier and perform better academically. Members said this unique approach provides children with a personal experience of the Sisters of St. Francis’ Franciscan values and teaches them how to lead healthy and balanced lives with respect for Earth, the environment and biodiversity.
A press release further stated, “With the current pandemic, medical experts are recommending schools teach outside as much as possible and, because Stella Niagara already has integrated the outdoors into all subjects, the students are able to learn math, ELA, science, social studies, art, music, religion and gym on the school’s 104-acre campus. While the outdoors has already been integrated into all subjects, our teachers collaborated with our outdoor educator over the summer to make sure that we were using the most of our campus.”
A few examples of outdoor learning since school returned include Montessori pre-K students performing their morning work in an outdoor classroom; Montessori students going on a nature hike in the woods, where found a fuzzy caterpillar, turkey feathers and falling leaves; kindergarten through eighth grade students learning outside; working in the children’s garden; and even enjoying lunch outside.