Podcast | Outdoor Learning Leads to Curious Students

2 young preschool kids engaging in outdoor learning and place-based ed by doing homework and reading outside

By Linda Buchner

Editor’s Note: As a part of Getting Smart’s “Learning and the Power of Place” thought leadership campaign on Place-Based Education, we’ve had our ears to the ground for great examples of place-based learning in action. We loved Linda Buchner’s interview with Permaculture Educator Emma Huvos and asked Linda if we could share their conversation with you. Enjoy! The original version can be found here.

Emma Huvos, an outdoor permaculturalist educator, shares a bit about her background and philosophy for the concentration on nature and natural unbounded environments in early education. While in college, Emma began to explore and evaluate her past and current education. Despite being an accomplished conforming student who followed the structured rules and achieved all of the goals and standards set forth in the traditional educational system, she still felt unfulfilled. She realized a very large missing component in her life was her disconnection from nature.

After graduation she accepted a position in at a charter school in Washington DC. For the first year, because of construction within the school, her students were not able to play outside or regularly experience education and play beyond the confines of the classroom. While doing her best to bring the outdoors in and grow plants taped to windows, she knew this wasn’t enough. Once construction was complete she was able to take her students the following year outside and garden with them. She witnessed many students blossom in this alternative environment. She then founded a rather unique preschool environment for children ranging in age from 3-6 on her family’s 80 acre farm called the Riverside Nature School.

Emma shares the philosophies and educators that guided her in the formation of this school while explaining the many benefits to children over the long term that come with allowing exploration and play to be the guiding force for learning versus the traditional academic and obedience-based objectives. She leaves us excited for the potential to expand this philosophy and type of school for the country, and hopeful that it can reach all children regardless of circumstances.

During this interview we also talk about:

  • German WaldKindergarten schools that served as her inspiration, along with others in the UK and a handful of American schools doing this type of learning by exploring.
  • How 3–6 year-olds who learn by play or by doing don’t hit that “summer slide” where they forget what they learned from memorization during the school year. Everything is in context and everything creates a story, which cements it into a young learner’s brain.
  • The benefits of this type of learning, including creating the space for beneficial risk-taking and a “Love and Logic” approach to discipline, including the child in the problem-solving aspects of conflict resolution.
  • Emma’s goals of creating lifelong learners through curious play, early on.

Bonus: We also really enjoyed this podcast and blog from Linda featuring Blake Boles, Founder and Director of Unschool Adventures. Check out their conversation to learn more about the “Unschool Adventure Program”—an opportunity to experience self-directed learning across the globe. For more on opportunities like this one developed by “GenDIY” young adults, check out: https://www.generationdoityourself.com/

This blog is part of our “Place-Based Education” blog series. To learn more and contribute a guest post for the series, check out the PBE campaign page. Join in the conversation on social media using #PlaceBasedEd. For more on Place-Based Education, see:

Linda Buchner is a marketing consultant and the podcast host of Driven 2 Educate. Follow her on Twitter: @lbuchner

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Getting Smart loves its varied and ranging staff of guest contributors. From edleaders, educators and students to business leaders, tech experts and researchers we are committed to finding diverse voices that highlight the cutting edge of learning.

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