Nature is good for the soul and one Hopkins teacher is proving that nature is good for education too. This fall, art teacher Courtney Kohlstedt is teaching her students at Alice Smith Elementary in an entirely outdoor classroom.
After returning to in-person learning, teachers have found new and innovative ways to teach their students in safe and effective ways. It has been a couple weeks of outdoor learning and Kohlstedt said it is going well.
“The kids have truly experienced joy while stretching out on the grass and being surrounded by trees and the peaceful sounds of nature,” Kohlstedt said. “They can use their art to express themselves and process their feelings in a safe and tranquil outdoor environment.”
Kohlstedt has found data to suggest that being outside in nature has both a physical and mental health benefit for her students. Physically, it can lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol while mentally it can reduce stress, anxiety and depression while improving cognitive function.
“All this adds up to having happier kids in school who are more engaged in the learning process than they would be otherwise. So having a classroom situated outdoors really makes sense,” Kohlstedt said.
In addition to the outdoor space being used as a classroom, Kohlstedt plans to use the entire school grounds as an extension of the outdoor classroom. Tree stump stools will be added in different areas and she will work with her students to create public art projects that will inspire the Alice Smith community.
Kohlstedt is proving that by thinking outside of the box we can create new modes of learning that can have a positive impact for everyone.