This past spring we received good news from teacher Tim that Common Ground, an environmental education center in New Haven, was going to begin a program similar to ours called NatureYear. Their mostly-outdoor program would be open to pre-schoolers, homeschooling families, and also to public school children whose parents would like their child's traditional education supplemented with an outdoor learning experience. Yes, the New Haven Public School Board approved a measure that would allow its students, with school and parent approval, to take part in Common Ground's NatureYear once a week. The news brought tears to my eyes - holistic outdoor education would finally be available to children outside of our small homeschooling niche. Tim was able to advocate for the program's formation in part because his experience teaching at EWL provided him with demonstrable outcomes that he could share with the folks in New Haven. For example, he explained to them how our kids, after a year in the woods, were able to engage in and contribute to an adult-level discussion about land management with a USDA representative here on our property. Our students know these woods and habitats so well that they could locate various habitats and discuss the benefits and consequences of specific interventions, like tree release or the widespread clearing of invasive species. When I recently came across this photo of NatureYear's tent, which looks strikingly similar to our set-up, it was clear how our little school in the woods is making waves and generating momentum for outdoor education.
Meanwhile, back at EWL we have learned that these wonderful miner's tents really take a beating in the harsh New England winter. Thanks to a number of generous donors and volunteers, this summer we erected a more permanent roof over our tent to replace the shredded fly. Thank you to everyone who contributed, both financially and with sweat equity, for creating such a precious space for learning. Our new digs should be around awhile.