Embracing curiosity and learning through experience
The goals of Nature's Classroom Institute are to foster independence and to support children in moving toward a mastery of self and the environment. Activities are designed to encourage children in their self-directed discovery of the world. Interest-based activities encourage children to develop a love of learning and trust in their own ability to learn.
Located in southeastern Wisconsin, Nature's Classroom Institute is set in pristine woodlands, wetlands, and prairies. It is an environment rich with experiences waiting to be discovered.
Highlights of 2015 Nature’s Classroom
Early on a warm and sunny Monday in September, we loaded the bus and headed for Mukwonago, Wisconsin and Nature's Classroom Institute (NCI). This year, we had eight anxious fourth year students who would be experiencing NCI for the first time. Our older fifth and sixth year students, who are all old pros, were very kind and nurturing helping allay the fears of their younger classmates.
We settled into our dorm quickly and were ready for adventure! Each morning we took part in field groups where we, along with students from Racine and Brickton Montessori schools, explored the over 100 acres that make up the campus of NCI. We visited the farm and helped care for Zeus, the sheep, and Gus, the llama, along with the many chickens and other animals that reside there.
Jumping into the Peanut Butter Pit, standing in the Holey Tree, and visiting the science lab on Rice Lake were all great fun. Classes ranged from Snot, where we learned about the immune system and got to eat some snot, to Animal Olympics where we learned about the talents and limits of animals’ abilities.
Large group activities including the night hike, Trail of Tears, were the highlights of the trip. Hiking in the complete darkness, carrying our burdens (heavy objects), we were able to experience just a very small part of the pain, frustration, and sadness the Cherokee people endured when the US Government removed them from their land and forced them to relocate with the enforcement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. It is a very somber lesson made more real for the students as they simulate these historic events that have shaped our nation.
After the night program, the mood is electric with questions and the sharing of the events that unfolded. Our class had the opportunity to bond beautifully during our time at NCI. It is always one of the most treasured times of our year together.