Developing our Mission, Vision, and Values
Every child deserves to be taught in a way that allows them every opportunity to respectfully, effectively receive and retain the content. We follow the research for effective teaching practices which includes engaging students physically, in and out of doors, through traditional and nontraditional subjects that they want to know about as it relates to their lives, and the power of being in service to others. We teach kids about growing, eating and sharing healthy foods with those in need, we nurture their creativity and imagination and the design of their innovative ideas, and allow them opportunities to learn to become stewards of the earth on which they live with respect to time, money, energy, and resources. The content taught is developmentally appropriate, physically engaging, on-par with the logical building of concepts, and relevant to living a fulfilled life.
We get to know our students in order to differentiate our lessons for them as individuals and help them grow together as a learning community.
Our partners in this endeavor are our parents. We work together in all things related to their child’s education at WBNS. As we chart the course we maintain constant communication engaging them from the very beginning as the expert on their child.
We care deeply about our colleagues, our partners, our members, and the communities in which we work. We learn from the experience and expertise of our elders and local professionals, and together we are building a path for stronger, healthier communities that welcome and respect all people.
Learning out-of-doors increases academic success
As research has grown in this area, and as we have witnessed first-hand at Woodson Branch Nature School, nature is not just good for kids’ health; it greatly improves their ability to learn and retain the information, as well.
The evidence for this comes from hundreds of studies, including experimental research. In one study, fifth-grade students attended school regularly at a local prairie wetlands, where science, math, and writing were taught in an integrated, experiential way as students participated in onsite research. When compared to peers attending regular schools, those who’d attended school outside had significantly stronger reading and writing skills (as measured by standardized tests) and reported feeling more excited about school because of the experience, as collected by student survey.
Other studies echo these findings. One study found that students at schools with more tree cover performed better academically—especially if they came from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Imagine if they not only attended school where there were trees, but students actually experienced extended exposure to them on a daily basis throughout their school day …. (like at WBNS!)
Still another compared students randomly assigned to take science lessons either in a classroom or in a school garden. That survey data indicated that among children in the garden intervention, science knowledge increased from baseline to follow-up more than among control group children. However, science knowledge scores were uniformly poor and gains were very modest. At WBNS, students take BOTH indoor classroom lessons studying research and vocabulary, and out-of-doors experiencing and participating in real chemistry and scientific inquiry in the gardens, the woods, and the creeks in their Outdoor Education and Agriculture classes. The combination is proving to be extremely effective for long-term retention as we follow the academic success stories of our graduated students.
Why Farm, Art, and Forest to implement Project-Based Learning?
Essentially, research and experience has been our guide. The members of this organization care deeply about the state of our planet, and have committed themselves to ensuring for a better future by means of teaching our children in a way that will be most effective. One only needs to simply follow the research! Children retain information when they are physically engaged, when there is a really good reason that makes sense to them, and when their receptors are OPEN. Teaching children in any other way can be counterproductive, and we are only interested in the methods and strategies that allow children the best opportunity to receive and retain information.
“Farm” is our Agriculture Program and our “Forest” is where we host our Outdoor Education Program. These hit ALL the strategies suggested in the research:
1. Gardening and caring for animals and the earth is physically engaging.
2. Eating and having a place to live is an essential need for everyone.
3. These classes revolve around and are generally taught in the great outdoors where human receptors are wide OPEN and ready!
"Art", in and of itself, is a mind opener. We live in a world where the elements of design surround us and it is our work to create. As children have quick access to their imagination, we always aim to keep that internal path open. Access to research studies about the value of Art in education here .