Engaging with Nature
Kids Afield is a weekly outdoor expedition that gives our Kindergarten students a chance to engage with nature through the lens of a digital camera. Season to season, in sunshine or snow, the children explore the Harley campus and document their discoveries. In early April, for example, the budding scientists looked for signs of spring on the Harley campus – capturing close-up images of crocuses, mud puddles, and sprouts of green grass peeking through snow-covered ground.
“It’s amazing to look at the world through their eyes. The things we think are ordinary are extraordinary to them!” says Lower School teacher Gail Hanss, noting that leading-edge research has shown direct exposure to nature fosters healthy childhood development – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
“By getting up close to things – whether it’s a flower, an insect, or tiny red berries on a bush – our students are learning to be responsible citizens of the world. They become aware of their role in sustaining our planet,” Hanss explains.
Kids Afield is closely aligned with a key tenet of the Harley School mission: We show how to care for the world and other people. Additionally our Kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a respectful steward of the community and environment – one of the “Characteristics of a Harley Graduate”, a faculty-driven aspirational document that guides our decision-making and vision. They also gain a sense of responsibility by learning how to safely carry, care for, and use the V-Tech point-and-shoot camera assigned to each student.
Back in the classroom, the students’ photographs are printed and shared, creating an opportunity for their classmates to observe, ask questions, and hypothesize on what they see. Several selected images from “Kids Afield Go Looking for Spring” were displayed on a bulletin board in the Lower School hallway for students, faculty, and visitors to observe and enjoy. The Kindergarteners also presented a slideshow of their favorite Kids Afield photos at a Lower School assembly, accompanied by a reading of their original collaborative poem, “The Up and Down Winter.”
Kids Afield program in winter