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We like to talk about "learning through adventure" a lot here at Summerwood. But what exactly does this mean?

Fundamentally, it means that we provide for our students opportunities to figure out their own ideas and discover knowledge for themselves. We encourage our students to ask questions about what they're learning rather than just "telling them" how multiplication works or where squirrels live. There's a time and place for direct, explicit instruction, but in inquiry-based learning it is one of the last teaching strategies we try, rather than the first.

Check out this article about a cognitive study on the value of play and discovery versus explicit instruction:

"Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery... teaching is meant to impart skills quickly and efficiently. The danger is leading children to believe that they’ve learned all there is to know, thereby discouraging independent discovery."

Time Outdoors

While we love nature, and want our students to find similar passion for the outdoors, Summerwood's commitment to nature-based learning is also an evidence-based educational practice.

Very real and important skills, like executive functioning--which is the determining factor of whether a student can independently perform classroom tasks--are tied directly to unstructured time outdoors.

"A recent study from Norway looked at the associations between time spent outdoors during child care and executive functioning.

Among children ages 4 through 7, those who spent more time outside during child care performed better on an executive function assessment and showed fewer inattention-hyperactivity symptoms.

Further, numerous studies[1] have found that playful engagement with nature in kids under age 12 was linked with improved mental health and emotional regulation. (“Playful engagement” consists of open-ended, child-directed experiences such as free play, exploration, and child-initiated learning, in contrast to externally directed activities, such as school gardening projects and adult-led field trips). These findings were consistent among both children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and those without diagnosed ADHD."

Check out the article to learn more:

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Using circle time for more than charting the day of the week and talking about the weather, Summerwood students conduct daily Socratic discussions during Socratic Circle Time. Socratic discussion involves the discussion facilitator (aka the teacher) asking open-ended questions that provoke critical thinking, sound reasoning, close listening skills, and oral articulation. We believe that teaching our kids to think critically and orally debate ideas should start in kindergarten. Check out this info from Cambridge University about the importance of oracy skills.

"[O]ur research shows that when students learn how to use talk to reason together, they become better at reasoning on their own – and so improve their attainment in maths, science and other subjects."