Throughout the year, students at Elmhurst Academy have been busy in our outdoor classroom exploring, investigating, taking healthy risks, playing, and adventuring.
The classrooms have utilized the outdoor campus for animal exploration, architectural endeavors, scavenger hunts, bird watching, caterpillar raising, artistic expressions, mud kitchen cooking, gardening, and experimentation with natural elements and materials.
Students observed the seasonal changes of the Illinois climate and watched how the landscape of our outdoor classroom changed throughout the year. Students used falling leaves for leaf rubbings and tree identification and recognized the disappearance of birds as the process of migration. During the winter months, students found animal tracks in the snow, telling stories about what the animals were doing and where they were going. They created large snow forts with shovels and hid in them like bears hibernating. As spring approached, students designed and planted their classroom gardens, including a vibrant flower garden, a galaxy garden, and a pizza garden. Elmhurst Academy hosted our annual Earth Fest event on our outdoor campus to celebrate the start of the planting season and invited our families to participate in environmental and sustainable themed activities and games with local environmental agencies. The event included guests from SCARCE, the Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab Center, the West Side Bee Boyz, and Flood Brothers Recycling.
This year, Elmhurst Academy celebrated many environmental holidays focused on educating students about sustainability, resource management, public lands, and conservation efforts. Parents and children celebrated America Recycles Day, World Water Day, Arbor Day, the Great American Campout, International Mud Day, and many more. Families also participated in community initiatives and fundraisers including the International Polar Bear Day thermostat challenge, the lights-out Earth Hour, and a birthday celebration for our mascot Ulysses, a great horned owl housed by the Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab Center.
Summer brought warm weather and ample opportunities for outdoor adventures which inspired our summer session theme, The Elements of Summer. The students explored the natural elements of wind, water, and earth through outdoor investigations. Students flew kites and created windmills, examined the process of water flowing and ice melting, and built tunnels in the sandbox and mountains out of clay. Students also regularly took care of our chef’s gardens and their classroom gardens by weeding, watering, and harvesting the vegetables and herbs growing. Students participated in caterpillar hunts in our butterfly habitat gardens and planted seeds in our mini greenhouse.
Our campus provides an environment that is full of opportunities for discovery, both guided and unguided. The outdoor classroom is used for environmental education as well as for art, literacy, mathematics, science, music, language, creative movement, large motor games, yoga, and imaginative play.