By Laura Nutter, Upper School Science, and Robert Pollicino, Upper School Science and Upper School Principal
Our students are considered "digital natives," and as educators we often try to meet them where they are by bringing the newest technology into the classroom. There are times when this makes sense, because we know our students will spend a fair amount of time in college and in the job world on computers. That said, are we just feeding into the 24/7 cycle of always being connected? Should we be preparing our students to make connections outside of their cell phone, iPad, or laptop?
In his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv writes about the disconnect between modern-day Americans and our natural world. The book documents the history of nature education in our schools -- and in particular, its decline over the last several decades. Louv also cites numerous studies that show a direct connection between our physical and mental health and our exposure to nature. "Time in nature is not leisure time;" writes Louv, "it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own)."
When planning the year, we wanted to find a way to help our students take a break from their laptops and connect to our natural world in the way that Louv discusses in his book. Environmental science provides a perfect opportunity for our students to do this—to learn more about their individual impact on the world around them, as well as the impact of their choices. Unfortunately we are so busy that we rarely have the time to notice what is happening around us. We wondered how we could change this with our students. Our answer: Sit Spots.
Sit Spots provide an opportunity for each environmental science student to connect to their own personal space in nature. Once a week, students spend 30-40 minutes on the undeveloped Bullis property writing observations of nature and reflecting on what they are learning in class. Last week, our first week in our Sit Spots, students reflected on the question "What is your personal experience with nature?" Students wrote about their own experiences outdoors, whether it was time spent at summer camp, hiking with their family or even just playing outside with friends in their neighborhood.
In implementing Sit Spots, we hope to reconnect students to nature, and give them the time (and beautiful space!) to make connections from the classroom to the larger world.