Taking the classroom outdoors at Buckingham Friends School

“Look at this everyone! We found a dragonfly larva!” says Steve Bernadini to his class of seventh graders.

“Mr. B,” as the kids affectionately call him, has been teaching at Buckingham Friends School in Lahaska for 38 years, and has been taking kids down to the pond behind the property to perform science experiments for just about as many years. Throughout the school year, the students take measurements of the pond’s water level and temperature, inspect their submerged habitats for aquatic invertebrates, and make observations. At the end of the year, the students graph the data and make an evaluation of the pond’s overall health.

“I love this experience for the kids because it allows them to get away from technology, get their hands dirty, and have a true biological field experience,” Bernadini said.

Taking the classroom outdoors is not something new to Buckingham Friends School. Being out in nature is part of BFS’s core belief that some of the best learning happens outside of a typical classroom, and aligns with the school’s core value of promoting academic achievement within an environment of experiential learning.

“Studies show that when you incorporate outdoor learning and provide time to be in nature, children connect more deeply with the material they are learning, their stress levels decrease, they have higher levels of emotional and behavioral resilience, and their attention improves, said Paul Lindenmaier, Head of School.

And Mr. B’s class is far from being the only class at BFS to take advantage of the outdoor learning experiences. Kids from Kindergarten through eighth grade can regularly be seen outdoors, whether it’s the Kindergarteners performing air pressure experiments, first graders building an actual log cabin in Woodshop, fourth graders meditating on the yoga platform during Mindfulness, or the eighth graders racing to see who can sled the furthest down the “BFS Hill” during winter recess.

“Children learn best when given opportunities to experience the outdoors and learning in the natural world rather than just sitting at a desk,” explained Lindenmaier. “Buckingham Friends School understands that a balanced approach to learning is vital to providing exceptional learning experiences, while offering the moments that contribute to being a healthy and productive individual and member of society. By being out in nature as much as possible, our students are active, engaged learners who are all around happier kids.”

Buckingham Friends School is a coed independent Friends school for grades K-8 located on 44 wooded acres in Lahaska.

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