“My eyes are drooping and very red,” Bergen said.
His mother, a math teacher, did not like what he was doing to her. The truth is that, before school was far away, she saw her son returning from school tired and leaving.
“A very sterile environment in an indoor classroom can make it tiring,” Brynn Manzella told CNN.
So she decided to study with him at home. During that time, Manzella heard about a teacher who held an outdoor class once a week in Loveland, Colorado, next door to other elementary school children.
Manzella says the class is perfect, because her son needs more time outdoors to explore and socialize with other children in a safe way when the epidemic strikes.
“I think it creates opportunities for children to be really resourceful and think outside the box.”
Fresh air, natural and no screens
“It’s a lot of fun. We do all kinds of activities,” 10-year-old Bergen told CNN. “I just love all the colors of nature outside.”
The program is offered in all 50 states, in line with state standards in science, social studies, the arts, languages and maths. Just in time for the fall, they learn why the leaves turn yellow.
“The stuff inside makes them green, into those tubes in the leaves so the tree can store it next year,” Bergen said, “then the leaves turn yellow and fall off the tree.”
Students also learn about pollinators and how bees help make the food we eat. They learn how seeds travel through the wind and grow in the soil they land. They created the Journal of Nature – like many scientists, ranging from John Muir to John James Audubon.
Michele Mandeville, director of Project Learning Tree in Colorado, says children develop creative writing skills in that way – storytelling from their observation, sitting under a tree for 10 or 15 minutes.
“If we give children the opportunity to go outside to learn about nature, to interact with nature and others in the open air, they will learn to protect nature and be just in love,” said Mandeville. CNN.
Children choose trees to “feed” and they learn about them; From bark to leaf type, and observe how it changes with the seasons. They pretend to be trees and pick up the nutrients they need to survive, picking different colored squares for each element.
“Green for nutrients, yellow for sunlight, blue for water and red for light,” said Bergen.
They learn to “read” the cross section of a tree to see how old it is through the number of rings and what happens each year from the beetle, to the wildfires in Colorado.
Mandeville also taught them to look for species of birds in their trees – from the fossils to the west.
And classes are held across the country throughout the dry season unless it falls below freezing. Birds can easily see when leaves come out of trees and children learn to build shelters, and inspect animal paths.
Using the five senses to observe
Children learn to focus and observe using their five senses just as scientists have to use their powers of observation. Mandeville gave children a plan for the sounds they heard, called “planning with sound.”
“They close their eyes and type of deafness by taking their ears off,” Mandeville said.
They write everything from bird tweets to the sounds of traffic, to the leaves and the rushing water and indicate the direction they are coming from.
“We are not involved with the voice because we are motivated by our vision,” Mandeville said.
She encouraged students to lift logs in the river and discover what might be blocking them. She explains how mushrooms and moss help make wood in the river.
“They can collect data and you can also spend time creating graphics, comparing different elements in nature that they find,” says Manzella. “You can not do that in a classroom with 4 walls. They can learn in a different way.”
The power of nature that evokes emotion, and stimulates creativity
Bergen describes it this way, “I feel like you, you can breathe and you can be close to the ground, to this earth.”
Mandeville, who holds a master’s degree in education, spent a year out of school teaching doing outdoor education, which ended in an epidemic.
“There has definitely been an increase in students feeling overwhelmed and anxious when they are in the classroom and just the urgency of the change of subjects they have to go through and not giving them much time to process and go outside and get really involved.”
Teachers need to go outside as well.
“Teachers, I know they’re burned and overflowing with trying to interact with children through screens.”
Mandeville facilitates tree learning programs, mentoring other teachers, and informal education conferences – now online – on how to teach this non-formal education curriculum.
“Many students are quiet in class and do not want to be called in to be out of the country,” said Mandeville, who is a shy child.
“People who are quiet … their eyes are open. They want to explore. They feel they have more room, just walk around and maybe pick up a block and see what’s going on.”
Mandeville says children tend to pay close attention when they look at the screen throughout the day.
“It was really about going outside and just opening our minds to feeling weird and looking and seeing things we had never seen before.”
There are no formal classes required to go outside
“Parents can take their children outside and far from their screens, whether they find a classroom or not,” said Mandeville.
“It’s as simple as going into your backyard, looking for a seat – we call it a seat – and watching what is around them,” he said, choosing bird songs, traffic jams, leaf blowers and wind chimes.
That encourages self-awareness, learning to sit still and as far as possible.
“I find nature to be a place for me to keep and find hope in the world,” said Mandeville.
Bergen’s mother agrees.
“Often we are outside and we just do not notice all the life that is happening around us, even in the city center.
And as soon as we start noticing, I really believe we can not stop the alert. ”