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 increasingly 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 now we are implementing Nature-Based Education through South Side Elementary School! We’re eager to announce that we will be offering this nature-based Kindergarten in partnership with the Outdoor Discovery Center, the area’s foremost nature-based education experts.
Although the nature-based kindergarten class will be part of South Side Elementary, students will spend their days learning in and around the multi-acre wooded area nestled in the heart of our school’s property on Ottawa Avenue. All of us are excited about the possibilities that exist within that multiple-habitat space—room for trails, gathering spaces, outdoor classrooms, and natural playscapes. We currently seeking out and interviewing high quality teaching candidates, and construction of the building and play areas will occur in the late spring and summer, with input from the Outdoor Discovery Center and GMB Architects.
With the Outdoor Discovery Center as our partner, we will have help with lesson planning, facilities advice, regular visits from ODC naturalists, and much more. They are excited to help us teach the Holland Christian academic curriculum in an entirely new way. The ODC is developing certification standards for nature-based programs, and we look forward to earning their highest rating as we enter a realm of learning where other schools are not yet operating.
“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.
An informational event for interested parents is scheduled for 6 pm on Monday, March 12 at the Outdoor Discovery Center located at 4214 56th Street, Holland, 49423. There will be separate applications for this particular kindergarten, which will be posted and available here on this webpage on March 13; if high interest makes it necessary, we will use a lottery system to fill the class by March 25, and then we plan to hold the lottery at 10 am on March 26. We appreciate your prayers and support as we take on this new adventure!
Photos courtesy of the Outdoor Discovery Center
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: