Taking it outdoorsThe classroom at Red Cottage Montessori is filled with plenty of materials to help students learn letters, shapes, counting, writing, math and science.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
The classroom at Red Cottage Montessori is filled with plenty of materials to help students learn letters, shapes, counting, writing, math and science.
But for teacher Kai Coyle, there’s another, larger tool that’s just as useful for helping her students learn: Hay Creek and the surrounding woods.
The creek runs directly in front of the school, and every day — whether it’s raining, sunny or cold — Coyle and the children don appropriate clothing and spend some time on the creek’s banks. The Goodhue Pioneer Trail provides an easy and safe walkway.
The amount of time Coyle and the students spend walking the trail varies depending on the weather and the classroom work they are doing that day. Some days they might be outside for just 10 or 15 minutes. Other days, they could spend as much as an hour walking, running, jumping and exploring, Coyle said.
“I just let them discover, imagine and play,” she said.
But it’s not all fun and games. At least once a week, Coyle said she takes a lesson outside and turns the daily walk into an outdoor classroom.
This past week, Coyle was working with the students to recognize and identify different types of geographic formations, including islands, peninsulas, isthmuses, straits and lakes.
Before they ventured out Tuesday afternoon, Coyle and the students sat in a circle in the classroom. Using plastic trays shaped like the different formations, Coyle explained to the students what each formation looks like and the characteristics of each.
The students then took turns pouring blue-tinted water around the plastic shapes to mimic how oceans, lakes and seas flow around the land formations.
Finally, it was time to get outside. Once the students got near the creek, the walk was stopped frequently as they bent down to collect and identify leaves (a previous lesson) or to scope out small islands in the water.
By the time Tuesday’s walk was over, the students were able to find at least one peninsula and several small islands. But, Coyle said, the walks are about more than just that week’s lesson.
“It’s just so the students feel comfortable in the woods,” Coyle said, “to take ownership of it.”