ECO: Educating Children Outdoors

The ECO Program at Moretown Elementary School works in partnership with North Branch Nature Center. ECO helps reconnect children with the natural world and foster stewardship in their communities. By using our beautiful school forest and lands, ECO engages children in the natural inquiry-based learning of their surrounding environment. Through this type of active learning, children gain a healthy respect for nature, their communities, themselves, and for one another.

Now in its 12th year at Moretown School, ECO happens on a weekly basis to get students outside and immersed in the natural world. Currently students in PreK, Kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, fifth and 6th grade participate in ECO. Yes, you read that correctly, ALL of our students are participating in 2022-2023. ECO is not a field trip or a one hour visit to a forest. The students participating in ECO spend 2 ½ to 4 hours exploring a forest, playing games, learning woodcraft skills, journaling, doing science experiments, collecting data, and sharing in a community circle. These experiences happen continuously throughout the school year. Rain, shine, and snow are welcomed weather features on any ECO day at school. We work with families to collect all the needed equipment for our students to be dry and warm for engaged learning outdoors. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! Not surprising, ECO days are some children’s favorite day of the week. Singing a song about rain, using ropes to climb a hill, making debris huts, following squirrel tracks in the snow, and boiling water in a Kelly Kettle for tea are all some things a child may experience on an ECO day. Inevitably, with more time spent outside moving and engaging in the natural world, each child develops a sense of themselves and their place in the world.

By helping to foster a relationship with nature at an early age, children are given the chance to have a multi-sensory experience that will help them to retain knowledge in a more effective and meaningful way. ECO provides an opportunity for teachers and students to apply integrated academic curricula beyond the classroom to the outdoors for exploration, experimentation, creativity, and personal growth.

This old Chinese proverb gives clarity to the purpose of ECO and the ongoing journey of life long learning for all human beings:

Tell me, I forget. 
Show me, I remember. 
Involve me, I understand.