Our Kids’ Love Of Nature in Full Bloom

The entrance to the Peabody Preserve off Route 9 and Pollinator Garden (Photo: Carolyn Sklar).

When you think about a school classroom, what does it conjure? Memories of “looking at the stars,” “being with the clouds,” “feeling plants and flowers,” “finding bugs” or “going on scavenger hunts”? Our John Paulding students recently shared these sentiments when asked about their love of nature after enjoying a day in the Peabody Preserve Outdoor Classroom (PPOC).

It is that type of joy, stimulation, freedom, and creativity that drives the programming for PPOC in Sleepy Hollow. As a signature TUFSD program, the outdoor classroom exposes children of all ages to nature, and the benefits it provides. Tucked away down a grassy knoll off Route 9, a wooden footbridge framed with foliage transports visitors to a special world where tree branch shelters act as classroom walls, and flora and fauna inspire imaginations.

Founded in 2013, the outdoor classroom is a unique and fitting local resource, considering the beautiful trails, woods, and ecosystems we have in Sleepy Hollow. Why not try to integrate the magical feeling one gets when hiking Rockefeller trails, or wandering through Rockwood, into a school day? But more importantly, nature has proven benefits to children’s’ learning and academic enrichment, as well as their sense of independence and emotional well-being. It is this impact that the outdoor classroom hopes to have with our kids, starting in kindergarten and through high school years.

“Our students, more than ever, need opportunities to play outside and explore nature,” said Ray Farrell, W.L. Morse P.E. teacher. “Peabody Preserve Outdoor Classroom provides many of our students with their first meaningful experience into nature, and they love it.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream community production which took place on June 18 (Photo: Carol Vinzant)

The outdoor classroom has greatly evolved its programming this past school year to offer free events to the community with different facets of the outdoors, infused with art, and action. Popular annual activities such as Pollinator Prep Day, Nature-Based Family Art, Gemini’s Meteor Watch and Community Capture The Flag were a big draw for kids of all ages throughout the spring. June saw the debut of an exciting performance — an interactive Midsummer Night’s Dream production — that led an audience through the woods and featured many students from the community as actors.

“Peabody Preserve Outdoor Classroom is entering its 10th year and we are so proud to have a dedicated place where students and the community can engage in nature, discovery and hands-on learning,” said Katie Scully, PPOC Manager. “The outdoor classroom is a place for students to open their senses to the natural world and learn to become stewards of the land and water. As we wrap our 3rd season of free Peabody after-school and weekend programming, we are already busy planning new exploration activities for next school year.”

As the team behind Peabody Preserve looks ahead, it believes the continued potential for the outdoor classroom knows no bounds. There is a devoted team of volunteers who maintain and help the 39 acre

preserve grow and thrive year-round. The team welcomes community involvement and suggestions, whether from local PTA members who want to voice ideas for their children’s classes, or from residents via the new Instagram page (@peabody_preserve10591), on Facebook, or directly to the Peabody Preserve Outdoor Classroom Manager, Katie Scully, at kscully@tufsd.org

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About the Author: Carolyn P. Sklar