We know that kids are created in the image of God–each with different passions, strengths, and challenges. And because of these unique differences, HCS has committed itself to varying kids’ learning opportunities. We’ve added Makers Week in the elementary schools, Winterim in the high school, Exploratories in the middle school, and most recently we are implementing our nature-based Forest School! Although the Forest School kindergarten class is part of South Side Elementary, students spend their days learning in and around the multi-acre wooded area nestled in the heart of our school’s property on Ottawa Avenue, with an indoor classroom for extreme weather located in the back of Holland Christian Middle School. Our Forest School classes are offered in partnership with the Outdoor Discovery Center, the area’s foremost nature-based education experts, who is helping with facilities advice, regular visits from their naturalists, as well as with overseeing certification standards. They are excited to help us teach the Holland Christian academic curriculum in this entirely new way.
“Holland Christian has impressed our team with their approach and commitment to developing a true nature-based Kindergarten program,” said Travis Williams, Executive Director at the Outdoor Discovery Center. “Becoming a nature-based program is much more than just going outside with students. It requires a commitment to building an entire learning experience that has a foundation in the outdoors—linking the indoors, outdoors, curriculum, and learning experiences into one systems approach. We look forward to working with Holland Christian on this journey.”
At HC, we know that learning is best when it’s relevant for students—when they see its connection to the world around them. Few opportunities offer the level of concrete relevance that a nature-based program does. And these experiences will dovetail beautifully with our school’s mission and faith-formative focus: The Lord cares deeply about the world He made, and as His followers, we love the things He loves–including His creation that He has given us. Furthermore, research on outdoor education has shown that effective outdoor learning can improve students’ focus, cognitive function, academic test scores particularly in science, social skills, as well as wonder and creativity. Like our Spanish Immersion programming, we plan to add more sections of nature-based classes in the years ahead so that students can continue these experiences. We appreciate your prayers and support throughout this school year as we carry out this new adventure!
/ In the News
Forest School in the News
WZZM Channel 13 News and reporter Brent Ashcroft followed our 2018 Forest School kindergarten students for their very first week of learning in their new Forest School kindergarten indoor and outdoor classrooms, to create this locally broadcasted news coverage of our students’ learning experiences. Besides short interviews with their teacher Ron Harig and South Side principal Miska Rynsburger, the video depicts a true early fall week of our nature-based kindergarten, including everything from ant bites and frog finding in the rain, to learning their letters of the alphabet!
Thriving & Learning in the Winter
Despite growing research showing benefits of getting kids outdoors, even for full school days, there still are the practical questions–how does this work in snowy Michigan winters? How do they read and take kindergarten naps without freezing? How are these kids doing academically? WZZM Channel 13 News and reporter Brent Ashcroft followed our 2018 Forest School kindergarten students again during the coldest snowiest time of 2019 January, as a follow-up story to see how these kids are not whining about the cold, but thriving and learning all the more!
Interested, but want some proof that this nature-based thing really is a good idea? To maybe explain to the grandparents? There’s a gaggle of well-researched explanations out there, but here’s a decent online list to start with:
- Washington Post.com: Why schools are failing our boys
- Scholastic.com: Why kids need nature
- Great Schools.org: Children and nature: who let the kids out?
- White Hutchinson.com: Benefits for Children of Play in Nature
- White Hutchinson.com: Young children’s relationship with nature: Its importance to children’s development and the earth’s future
- Walking Stick Woods: The Evolution of a De-Evolution
“This program has been so influential in our son’s life and we couldn’t be happier and more excited for this program to continue to grow and evolve.”