How Students Across the District Are Learning, Naturally
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On any given day at Eames Way Elementary School (EWS), students can be seen - or better yet, heard - enjoying Harmony Park, the outdoor classroom made possible in 2016 with a grant from the Marshfield Education Foundation.
“The students use it every day at recess to create, relax, read, converse, write and play,” says Wendy Hermance, who teaches first grade at Eames Way and who is the educator who submitted the grant proposal to MEF for the school’s outdoor classroom. The most surprising outcome is how much the students love to make music on the instruments, and how the former EWS students wish it was here when they were in school.”
In 2016, MEF awarded an $11,800 grant to EWS to create an outdoor classroom that would be accessible and would foster creativity through outdoor exploration, music and tactile play. The outdoor classroom is located outside the lower wing of EWS in an isolated area of woods. The perimeter is defined by a split rail fence and includes benches made out of logs and 3 musical instruments, including xylophones and drums.
Since then, two more elementary schools in Marshfield - Martinson Elementary School and Governor Winslow School - have also created outdoor classrooms. Governor Winslow School received a grant in 2019 of $7,669 to create an outdoor classroom with natural seating and tables, clipboards for writing and portable wifi for students to access the curriculum outside of the building.
Studies show learning in natural environments can enhance critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving. Hermance notes that the “no wrong notes” philosophy behind the xylophones helps to build confidence in the students and the instruments encourage them to collaborate and play together.
This year, the Marshfield Education Foundation also awarded a $4,500 grant to the South River School to help install a large, permanent “human sundial” to offer students a hands-on opportunity to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts in the outdoors.