Ecology & Outdoor Leadership Program

Announcing Bridge School’s Newest Innovation in Addison County Elementary Education:

Ecology & Outdoor Leadership Program

For decades, Bridge School has valued the educational power of the natural world. As we approach our 40th anniversary as a school, we are formalizing this commitment to outdoor education by launching our new Ecology & Outdoor Leadership Program in September 2019. 

The Why: Inspired by the philosophy pioneered by forest schools, our inquiry-based learning for the year will explore topics related to sustainability, ecology, natural history, and outdoor skills. Child development research is conclusive on the topic of outdoor education: spending time outdoors leads to better outcomes both in and out of the classroom. Outdoor exploration provides vital opportunities for sensory development, reduces anxiety, improves focus, and leads to improvements in a variety of other indicators of health and wellbeing. Furthermore, we believe in empowering this generation as changemakers who are knowledgeable and skilled in sustainability topics.

The Where: Every week, rain or shine, we will start our week at school together with a half-day outdoor field trip. We will use Middlebury’s Wright Park as a home base, and partner with the Middlebury Area Land Trust. All of our regular classes–Math, Language Arts, and Explorations– will occur in the field, using the resources available as our base for discovery and inquiry.

The What: We will use our time in the field to focus on learning the natural history of Addison County, studying ecological concepts, and practicing outdoor survival skills. Back at school, we will expand on what we have learned, and think about the natural world from the perspective of sustainability as a school, and as individuals.

During our Mondays at Wright Park, and our inquiries during the rest of the week at school, the following broad, essential questions will guide us:  1) Where am I? 2) How did we get here? 3) Where are we going? 

We will also ask:

  • How do my choices have an impact on my community?
  • Who and what do we share the community with?
  • What can I do to make a positive impact on my community?
  • What does it mean to be an outdoor leader? What does it mean to be an ecological leader?
  • What does it mean to be a sustainability advocate? 

Furthermore, the following goals will be the compass by which we, as teachers, plan our explorations for the year.

We strive for our students to:

  • feel confidence in the outdoors, knowing how to stay safe and comfortable.
  • be knowledgeable about the natural history of Vermont, and ecological processes and systems.
  • be advocates for sustainability in their personal lives, their lives at home, and their lives at school.