Nueva’s thirty-three acres of wooded campus provide many opportunities for outdoor learning, and venturing off campus for outdoor educational experiences is also an important aspect of the education program. Our educators believe outdoor learning provides an abundance of hands-on lessons in a variety of subjects such as science and math. For example, outdoor trips may include the opportunity to investigate the communities of organisms that live in freshwater habitats or tide pools, to observe the effects of fire on a forest ecosystem, or to see what it’s like to work as an archaeologist.
Children’s social-emotional growth has always been an important component of a Nueva education and outdoor learning provides an atmosphere where students learn about themselves and collaborating with others. Children who are active and enlightened through experiences outdoors tend to grow up healthier, and possess a better understanding of the sciences, are self-aware, and excited about the natural world. As adults, children immersed in the outdoors tend to value taking care of the natural places and resources they have learned to love.
Nueva’s campus grounds enhance learning opportunities. For example, children working in the school garden learn sustainable agriculture methods and the benefits of organic farming. They grow and harvest organic crops such as tomatoes, cabbages, melons, basil, and more. They have fun digging, planting, and watering to help plants thrive. The Gardening Academy enables students to dive deeper into gardening methods and issues around agriculture.
Young and older students alike go on outdoor trips around California and beyond for field trips and overnight trips. Lower School students go on one to two-night excursions, while Middle School students have trips that last five days and more. Students participate in a variety of challenges such as hiking, climbing, ropes courses, and group games that encourage them to push themselves in new ways.
The outdoor setting makes for an interesting learning environment where students grow more in touch with the natural world, and it also teaches students important skills necessary for traveling and living safely in the wilderness. For example, the seventh grade participates in a five-day outdoor program in Yosemite National Park where students learn to care for others, purify water, secure food away from animals, cook meals, and clean dishes.
Personal growth is another tangible benefit that children get from the outdoors. The moments on these trips when children spontaneously help each other, listen respectfully to each other in discussions, work as a cooperative group in an initiative game, help defuse disagreements, and provide support for homesickness, all contribute to their growth and personal resources. Children extend what they learn in school about their interactions with each other and about their own images of the kind of people they are, which is an empowering experience. Outdoor learning embodies Nueva’s motto of “Learn by doing, learn by caring.”