Tie Dye Turtles class enjoys lunch around the campfire on Forest Friday.

Jumping the Creek, Reading in Hammocks, Making Fairy Houses: K/1 Class Loves Forest Friday
A treasured part of the week for the Tie Dye Turtles Kindergarten/1st grade class is Forest Friday. That's when students in the class taught by Rebecca Drage and Shannon Hostetler spend most of the day in the forest learning, exploring, and building their classroom community. They jump over the creek, say hi to turtles, read in hammocks, cook on a campfire, make fairy houses, and write in their journals. Don't tell them, but they are learning while having all that fun! They are practicing reading individually and aloud, using math to count firewood and measure items in the creek, and building their gross motor skills and confidence as they explore.
Building a Sense of Ownership and Follow-Up
The students start Fridays indoors by putting on clothes needed for the weather and grabbing lunches and water bottles. Then, they head out for the 15-minute hike to their forest classroom where they stock the nurse station, build a campfire, and settle in. They spend most of the day there learning and exploring.

Students practice math while gathering firewood.
"The students really feel an ownership and take care of the space that they helped plan, design, and set up," Ms. Drage said. "They also develop individual ownership and follow-up as they have to remember to take their snack and water and have the appropriate clothing. We remind them that Mother Nature is in charge, so we need to be smart and resp onsible in our choices. When choices are poor, such as not bringing boots when it's raining, there are natural consequences that teach students meaningful, real-life lessons."
Connecting with Nature Fuels Minds and Bodies
Forest Friday started a year and a half ago when Ms. Drage and Ms. Hostetler wanted to find a way to connect with the outdoors and to engage students in meaningful, nature-based learning experiences. They were inspired by the book  Balanced and Barefoot in which author Angela Hanscom writes: "Children are naturally curious and seek out 
opportunities to make sense of the w orld. When children are left to their own device, they experiment with their surroundings, take risks, make mistakes, and then learn from the mistakes. They problem solve, negotiate, imagine, and investigate."
The teachers soon began taking their class to the forest for short periods of time. They discovered the hike was tiring unless the students had a chance to rest and learn before heading back to the classroom. "We've learned a lot of things through trial and error, but our kids have been able to be part of the process," Ms. Drage said. "When we encounter a problem in the woods, we have to problem-solve and figure out how to fix it together."
The teachers were committed to holding most of their Friday classes in the forest and quickly saw other benefits as well.
"Students are more motivated there to work together to find solutions, because there's no easy fix," Ms. Hostetler said. "They collaborate in groups to build bridges and forts, and when challenges arise, they are able to independently work through them to find the best solution. We've seen incredible growth in their stamina and perseverance, along with the powerful classroom community that is being built."
Ms. Drage noted other benefits she has seen. "Our class has learned to support each other as they take risks and try new things in the woods. It's amazing to see the ways we have grown and connected as a classroom family. It has also strengthened our co-teaching relationship as we take risks as educators moving our teaching outdoors."
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, in the foreword to Balanced and Barefoot, wrote:  "Too many of today's children miss out on the full sensory richness offered beyond the walls of a classroom or home. Manageable risk and independent, imaginative play are essential not only to physical health but to the development of self-directed young minds."
What Students Say
Teachers and education experts agree that learning in nature provides many benefits to kids. Here's what a few of our students said they like about Forest Friday.
Reading in hammocks is a Forest Friday favorite.
Hannah S. is a Kindergarten student in the class. She shared her favorite Forest Friday activities - and one that scared her initially. "You can jump over the creek or walk to a place to cross. Other people jump over it a lot, so I tried and got back over. It kind of scares me, but I do it. We build fairy houses and say 'hi' to the turtles. It's fun, kind of tiring, and we get dirty. We get to hang hammocks sometimes, and swing, relax, and read books. It's a two-person hammock, so we read together. At home, we look at weather apps so I can pick the clothes I need for Forest Friday. Sometimes it's cold, so I bring more clothes."
William B. is a first grader in the class. "I like everything! We build fairy houses and houses for us. We jump over the creek. I'm not afraid of that. We hike, sit on logs, and have a root wall in the creek for climbing. We count things in the woods, like 1,000 sticks! We bring a jump suit for rain and rain boots or cowboy boots. We read, do math, and write in our journals. Once, we saw deer just standing there while we were writing. One day we were looking at frogs on a tree and didn't see a snake. Then, I saw it and said 'snake', and we all ran away. The teachers made us go back and identify it. It was not poisonous."
Jumping the creek and building bridges helps boost students' gross motor skills and confidence.
Last year, Kevin K. was a first grader in the class. He now encourages others to take action from what he learned. "I liked building camp fires, building forts, and cleaning out the stream. I feel like if you can't have empathy for the environment then you can't understand how living beings like trees and plants suffer and die because we cut down forests. If we have no plants or trees left, then we will suffocate because trees give us oxygen. Even if you think that you are not doing harm by pulling up grass on the meadow, if everyone did that then we would have no grass on the meadow. I cleaned up trash in the stream so animals wouldn't eat it and die and then other animals would eat them and die. I thought it was important, and I couldn't do it alone. I learned you won't last long in the wild on your own - you need your friends."
It's obvious from the words of these children and the passion of their teachers that the joy, wonder, and connection to nature that happens on Forest Friday are an essential part of the academic, social, and emotional learning experience.
Focus on High Meadows' Guiding Principle: Developing Intrinsic Motivation and Taking Ownership of Learning

Children should be guided and empowered to develop intrinsic motivation, to take ownership of their learning, and to experience wonder and joy.

Afternoon Hike Leads to Dynamic School and Fun Camp

On an afternoon hike in 1973, the High Meadows School's four founders explored land that is now our campus and conceived the idea of a progressive school and summer day camp designed to emphasize exploration, discovery, and multi-age learning. Their vision led to the creation of a fun-filled camp and a dynamic school that supports inquiry-based learning and the natural intersections of academics and our environment.  Two alumna who are still connected with High Meadows shared what they loved about the school and camp as children and now as adults.
Annie Kimball, Seniors Unit Director at High Meadows Camp

School Stats: Attended from three-year-old preschool - fifth grade.
(l to r): Annie Kimball and Anne Lovatt having fun as High Meadows Camp counselors.
Camp Connection: Went to camp for two summers while she was a  High Meadows student and became a camp counselor at age 16. This upcoming season marks her 24th summer working at High Meadows Camp, where she now serves as the  Seniors Unit Director. She works with other camp and school alums each summer, including Anne Lovatt , who is also a 6th/7th grade Social Studies teacher at High Meadows.
Teacher Time: Started as a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, then soon helped create the school's drama program. She was a drama teacher for six years.

Student Memories: "
When I was at High Meadows, there were about 150 students. We all knew each other, our families, our pets, and whose family car was pulling up the driveway at carpool. Each teacher I had over the years really took the time to know me, my strengths, and my weaknesses. They knew how to help me be the best student I could be while playing and embracing childhood. Other than playing in the ditch and meadow time, the memories that stand out the most are when I needed a teacher's help, and she was there all in supporting me. Now having had the chance to experience the school and camp as an adult, they are still very much the same. It still has that family feel. I don't know anything longer, better, or deeper than I know High Meadows. The core love I felt and received there when I was young has continued, and that is why I have stayed connected - to share some of what I received with the next generation."  

(clockwise from back): Josh, Annie, Nolan, and Sadie Kimball
Family Facts: Her daughter Sadie, 4, will attend High Meadows Camp for the first time this summer. Her son Nolan, 6, will return for his fourth summer.
What I Love About High Meadows: "All of it! I wish I could pick out a few details to share but honestly ALL of it played a huge role in who I am today, my career path, how I go through the world, the values I looked for in the man I married, and how I parent our children. If you truly take in all that High Meadows School and Camp has to teach and show us, then all members of the family prosper. I remember my mom saying when I was young: 'I'm sending you to High Meadows for me, so that you can teach me.' I did, and I still do. We hear stories from our alums all the time that even though they aren't on campus, they live a High Meadows lifestyle. This is what it's all about. Soak it all up like a sponge, and then spend your lifetime squeezing it out as you move about the world."
Sarah Bobbitt, High Meadows Parent and 'Mommy and Me' Teacher

Student Stats: Attended High Meadows from fourth - eighth grade. Her brother went there for Preschool first, and she went to the school later. He was in the same three-year-old classroom that she taught in as a High Meadows teacher.
Teacher Time: "I taught at High Meadows for 10 years in PreKindergarten and Kindergarten/1st grade classes. I was influenced by my High Meadows teachers and wanted to give that back to students. I loved that teachers had the flexibility to go at the student's pace. We worked with parents as a team and looked at students individually. If, as a school we keep the children's interests at heart, we don't have issues. That is my teaching philosophy as well as High Meadows'. Now I teach the Mommy and Me class one day a week which gives prospective families a snapshot of the culture and experience of the school. It has a nature spin, and we use the wonderful campus, including the labyrinth and the animals."
Student Memories: "One of my treasured memories is playing in The Ditch, which kids still love doing today. I also loved my teachers and my relationship with them. They knew what I was comfortable doing and had something for me to do that worked for my beliefs and comfort level. Dr. Babiar, Mr. Engbritson, and Ms. Wolf, who are all current Middle Years teachers, taught me when I was a student."

Family Facts: Her daughter Olivia is a first grader in the classroom she taught in for several years. Her daughter Claire is in Pre-Kindergarten. 
(l to r: Ryan, Claire, Olivia, and Sarah Bobbitt)
What I Love About High Meadows: "It's a magical place. I feel molded as a person by High Meadows. I wouldn't be me without my experience there. I got the gift of watching other teachers as a young teacher which helps me as a parent. The personal relationships between teachers and students are amazing, and I want that for my kids. They know my children and value them as people. It feels like a family."
Students Showcase Artistic Process, Creativity, and Skill

Earlier this month, High Meadows hosted Art Night 2019: The Artist Studio to let families step into the mind, heart, and soul of the artistic process at our school and  have them  exp erience students' artistic creativity and skills. The artwork displayed included drawings, paintings, pottery, and sculptures. Kindergarten - 8th grade students escorted their family members through the colorful displays to share their creative process and the resulting of the work they did.  
Join Us April 13 for Special Workshop - Follow the Child: Creating Play Experiences for Learning at Home

Parents of children age d 2 - 7 years old are invited to come learn how to engage their children in rich, authentic learning experiences utilizing household materials and nature. Weaving together best practices from Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Forest School, our skilled educators will empower you to be a facilitator of learning in your own home. Hear how to tap into your child's natural curiosity to create play-based opportunities and leave with hands-on ideas and resources. Participants will leave:
  • Understanding the developmental stages of young children
  • Recognizing the role of play in early childhood development
  • Knowing how to set the stage for authentic learning
  • Feeling confident as facilitators of nature-based learning experiences
  • Identifying the importance of independence and responsibility in young children
The workshop will be led by High Meadows teachers Gail Albert, Libby McCutchen, and Linda Wise who have a combined 40 years of experience teaching young children. Join us Saturday, April 13 from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Learn more and register today!
Explore High Meadows
Limited Openings Available for 2019-2020 Enrollment

Still exploring school options for the 2019-2020 school year?  High Meadows has limited openings in select grade levels for the 2019-2020 school year. Contact our Office of Admission to learn more about space availability and the application process at lnicholson@highmeadows.org or 678-507-1170.
Family Farm to Forest Tour - Saturday, April 13, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. 
This child/family-centered introduction to our beautiful outdoor campus showcases special locations including our gardens, tire swing, and animals. All family members are welcome. Feel free to bring a picnic-style snack to enjoy on the meadow following the tour.  *Note: this event is weather dependent.
Group Tours - Mondays at 10:00 a.m. and Fridays at 9:00 a.m.
Register for a tour to observe classes in action , learn about their daily schedule and curriculum, and connect with teachers and principals.  RSVP through the Ravenna system or call the office at 770-993-2940. 

The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

(770) 993-2940 | www.highmeadows.org
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