Outdoor Education and the Natural World

We offer our children the opportunity to interface with nature from a very early age through recess, outdoor play, bog walks, gardening, class wilderness trips, and a new formalized program using traditional skills for outdoor survival.

Waldorf education, through AWSNA, was recognized by the Captain Planet Foundation as the recipient of this year’s Green School Award for “…demonstrating extraordinary environmental stewardship, helping to protect and preserve the natural balance and beauty of our land and actively putting forth a significant effort in making the world a better place.”

Here are some examples from the outdoor education program and classroom curriculum at Anchorage Waldorf School:

  • Nearby Baxter Bog serves as an outdoor classroom for walks, science study, play, and exploration for students of all ages.  In turn, we serve as stewards of the Bog by clearing and maintaining trails.  Students created and  illustrated educational panels that are mounted throughout the bog with information for visitors about the habitat and the animals who dwell there.
  • A core unit of the third grade curriculum is Practical Life Studies: farming, house-building, gardening and composting.  Highlights from this year’s study include an overnight trip to a homestead near Talkeetna where the children took a nature walk, picked berries, harvested vegetables, packaged seeds, cleared beds for the winter, and gathered rocks to build a fire pit.  They also visited a local garden center in Anchorage and they are designing and building their own garden on campus.
  • Much of our Movement Education program for students in grades 1-8 takes place outdoors with activities including cross country running, cross-country skiing, orienteering, and snowshoeing.  We use the space on our 2.5 acre campus and also regularly travel to nearby Baxter Bog, Goose Lake, and Russian Jack Park.
  • Anchorage Waldorf School has connected with the trained professionals of 4 Elements Earth Education (Rick Berry) and Merlin Outfitters (Klaus and Laura Lerch)  to provide a program of earth-based education, outdoor wilderness activities, and experiential skill practice for outdoor survival, tracking and awareness. Drawing on indigenous teaching techniques, this curriculum subtly engages students in a spontaneous flow of interactive learning opportunities with the goal of: strengthening powers of concentration, observation and endurance; providing access to deep reservoirs of self-confidence and self-knowing; cultivating intimate, respectful relationships between students, the Earth, and all who dwell upon her; empowering, inspiring and preparing students to become active, responsible caretakers of the Earth.

In September, our sixth, seventh and eighth graders traveled to Trapper Creek for a 3-day, 2-night experience led by Klaus, Laura and Rick.  Focusing on the four survival elements of shelter, water, fire and food, students established a camp, crafted their own bow drill sets for  fire making, built shelters, wove cordage, and cooked meals over coals.  They also developed tracking and awareness skills through activities in the woods and paths surrounding the camp.  Our third, fourth and fifth graders spent a day with Rick, Laura and Klaus at Baxter Bog building a survival shelter and playing outdoor games.