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The Marimba Makers

The first time Sean Murphy and Anne Froning built a marimba, they were winging it. They’d never made an instrument—they really didn’t have woodworking experience at all—but, inspired to create a sturdy outdoor instrument that would work well in an outdoor classroom, they dove headfirst into the project. “We’re artists, and we don’t say no to work,”…
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Embracing Your Inner Child

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  -George Bernard Shaw As a parent, watching my son experience the world around him is a true joy in my life. There is something so beautiful and humbling about the way a child can connect to a moment in life…
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Music and Nature: A Natural Combination

From under the shelter of a tree, a six year old calls to her playmates. “Listen, come hear my song.” Her friends gather around. She sings of the sun rising high in the sky and the sparkling rivers connecting to the sea. Her refrain includes the melodic phrase, “because this beautiful day means everything to…
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A Growing Community

What a thrilling week! Surrounded by the wonders of nature at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska, a motivated group of natural outdoor classroom users and advocates came together during the Nature Explore/Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute to learn from each other and enhance our shared mission of connecting children with…
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Seeing is Believing: No Teacher Left Indoors (Part 3)

Those of us who have inhaled the Nature Explore Classroom experience truly “get” something that many others simply haven’t seen or experienced firsthand; rich, whole-child learning in nature. Every education professional I’ve interviewed over the years prefers their outdoor classroom to the playgrounds they had known before. Whether they use it for curricular activity, or…
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Learning from Charlie

“A teacher was watching the children in the sand box when Charlie approached her and asked a simple question: ‘Are you happy?’ The teacher, curious and a bit surprised by the question, replied: ‘Yes, of course I am.’ Charlie responded with all the wisdom of a four-year-old: ‘Then you should tell your face that.’” –Deb Curtis…
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The Padrino (Part 2)

James Oftendal, founder of the US Forest Service’s Generation Green program, has worked hard for over two decades to build its diverse, twenty person staff. Generation Green, which started with one school in Central California, now has people in Los Angeles, the Central Valley, Sacramento, South Lake Tahoe, Eldorado National Forest, and north in Mendocino….
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The Padrino (Part 1)

During his first few days working for the US Forest Service in California’s Sierra National Forest, James Oftedal would have walked home—if he’d known the way. He was out of his element, and ready to resume life in a rough area of Fresno, where he’d grown up. In this new, alien environment of the forest,…
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No Teacher Left Indoors (part 2)

In January 2015 we met Beth Fryer, owner of the Teddy Bear Day Care and Preschool, of Traverse City, Michigan. Her colleagues from other day care and preschool sites never understood why Beth spent so much of her day outdoors with the children. At the time, her very large outdoor space had plastic toys, a…
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My Magic One-Room Schoolhouse

Imagine. You’re in a bookstore, browsing the Education section.  An irresistible book title catches your eye: “My Magic One-Room Schoolhouse: a True Story.”  With a bit of anticipation, you draw the large format book from the shelf. The cover photo doesn’t seem to fit with the title.  A girl who looks about four years old…
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