Nature Immersion Schools: A New Trend? {Guest Post}

{Editor’s note: Today’s post is a wonderful look at an emerging trend in early-childhood education. Based on European models and the knowledge that being immersed in nature only connects us more. If you don’t have a similar school near you, consider trying an activity Kelly proposes that brings nature in while getting you and your child outside more.}

We are living at a time when over half the world’s population lives in cities and when media and electronics are defining reality. In contrast, farm work, crafting, and imaginative nature play enhance problem-solving skills, encourage full sensory engagement, and support healthy social development.

Green Forest - Mother Earth School - nature immersion educationIn Europe there are hundreds of ‘forest kindergarten’ outdoor immersion early childhood programs. In the United States, this movement is just gaining momentum. The first recognized outdoor kindergarten started in Portland, Oregon through Shining Star Waldorf School in 2007.

Since then, we have expanded into our own small school called Mother Earth School. We offer year round outdoor programming for preschool and kindergarten, as well as summer camps and rite of passage programs for children up to age 12. We are located on a 7-acre permaculture farm within the city limits of Portland, Oregon.

The Mother Earth School philosophy honors the contribution of every being. This not only includes the children and teachers, but also each plant and animal. Each leaf that falls to the ground to compost, each egg laid by the hens, and each bee pollinating a blossom offers something magical that weaves into the landscape.

A lovely Earth-honoring activity that parents can do with their children at home is to create a nature table. This can be as simple as a designated space on your kitchen table or fireplace mantle. You can bring in a tree round or lay some fabric on the floor in a safe place.

Make the area special, and treat it with care and respect. When your family is outdoors and admiring a flower petal, a fallen branch, a dead butterfly, a pine cone (you’ll be amazed what is recognized as a treasure!!), lay it carefully on the nature table, honoring its beauty. This activity will increase your awareness of what is happening around you. It is important that nature doesn’t just become scenery, but that we are actively appreciating and interacting with the natural world.

Supporting this school is also supporting a new educational model that combines several key philosophies that are currently addressing the needs of our future generations. Please visit our website for more details about school year and summer camp enrollment, farm tours, and our pursuit to find land for a grade school.

photo credit


Kelly Hogan is the administrator at Mother Earth School in Portland, Oregon. Mother Earth School supports the healing of humanity by transforming education with reverence for the wisdom inherent in nature. We offer year-round nature immersion education in a forest and farm environment. Our vision is to create an educational experience for early childhood and grade school children in which all subjects are steeped in elements of the outdoors.

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Nature Immersion Schools: A New Trend? {Guest Post} — 7 Comments

  1. What an excellent movement. Let’s hope it gains momentum faster than just a few a year. It’s so essential that young people understand that their environment needs their consistent reverence and help. We have got to stop letting little machines do our thinking for us. Thanks for sharing and come visit when you can!
    SharleneT recently posted..Pork Neck Soup – Solar Baked

  2. Such important work! I stumbled across your blog from somewhere a long time ago and have just found you again….
    It frightens me how easy it is for kids to get disconnected from nature and the repurcussions of this severance from what should be their birthright. Why would they want to be guardians of something they know nothing about. When I watch the love and reverance my kids show for even the tiniest bug or flower it makes my heart sing..we are very fortunate to live close to nature.
    Your school sounds wonderful well done…

  3. I too am fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest and am an environmental educator with our local watershed group. I would highly recommend reading “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. Nature immersion and education are a must!

  4. Glad to see the history mentioned here, we did make it into the NYT when the K opened, since then we have continued to provide one full day per week outdoors year round for kids in grades 1-6 over at our school. We can attest to the strong positive effect of spending a few years outdoors before entering classrooms in grade 1 for lessons.

  5. Glad to see the story continue, we are bringing grades outside one day a week (Thursdays) as well for kids six to 12. I am happy to see others are imitating this first outdoor school idea around the nation.

  6. Pingback: Tough Decisions: Parenting With Special Needs | A green living, green parenting blog

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