Experiential learning

Connecting with Nature

Spring has come to Portland, and with it, a return to our weekly trips to Laurelwood , the 50 acre retreat center that we get to use for school once a week.

The Primary class (1st/2nd) has a great routine for the day. We leave first thing in the morning to drive the 30 minutes to get there. When we arrive, we check in with our favorite spot, the chicken coop and say “hi” to our dear friends the chickens. Then we split up into 2 groups and spend the morning learning outside. We’ve been studying the water cycle in the classroom, so this week one group made an evaporation experiment, while the other drew and wrote about the clouds we observed from atop a hill. We read books and illustrated the water cycle, too. After lunch, we have an hour of free exploration time. It is remarkable to see what arises from play in a more wild place. This week, the students  made daisy and dandelion chains, and also to built a house out of logs and twigs – their home as they were all rabbits.  Then, we head back to school to talk about what we observed and to ask questions for our next trip to Laurelwood.


The Intermediate (3rd/4th)students leave later in the morning so they can do Spanish at school. They had a conversation as a class about how wonderful it is for us to be able to spend so much time at Laurelwood, and they decided as a class that they’d like to be of service to the community. So, the first hour that they are there, they do some sort of service project. This week, they laid cardboard for a new garden bed. The last hour there is for free exploration and some hands-on experiences based on what they’ve been learning in the classroom.


The Upper Elementary students (5th-7th) have independently taken on a project on the land. They discovered a long-abandoned old chicken coop and have been working each week on fixing it up. They also take specialty classes with teachers who live on campus or other residents who want to share their talents. This week the students started an painting class that focuses on  exploring their creativity.

We are truly blessed to be able to spend this much time in nature. The students bring back rich questions that we can spend time exploring in the classroom. Best of all, with these regular visits, each child has developed their own relationship with and love of the land. They look forward to each trip.

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