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The Watershed School's Philosophy of Nature Education

A significant curricular component that distinguishes The Watershed School from other schools is our emphasis on combining stimulating classroom science lessons with outdoor explorations and studies with direct connection to our community. This is a trend that is regaining national attention.
Environmental education is facing a national crisis. Many schools are scaling back or eliminating environmental programs. Fewer and fewer students are able to take part in related classroom instruction and field investigations, however effective or popular. State and local administrators and teachers point to two factors behind this recent and disturbing shift: the unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and a lack of funding for these critical programs. Even so, with the new interest in ecological issues, and the resulting financial support for ecological education, schools like ours are poised to be on the cutting edge of change.

The Watershed School realizes that children move along a basic, though uneven, developmental pattern as they work their way though elementary and middle school. Just as we notice identifiable stages of growth in educational development, we notice patterns in the way children relate to and make sense of the natural world.
The current approach to teaching ecological sciences in schools can be emotionally draining to the students. The Watershed School focuses primarily on the wonders, enjoyment, and fascinating science of the natural environment as an action-based response to the negative messages inherent in curriculum that focuses heavily on topics of environmental destruction. While we certainly acknowledge the importance and gravity of the environmental problems we face today, The Watershed School is taking a strong stand to counteract the current trend towards the “negative and far away” by teaching developmentally appropriate natural science education grounded in students immediate experiences.
Developers of The Watershed School feel very strongly that inasmuch as solutions to problems such as oil spills, global warming, and groundwater contamination are critical to the future of the ecosystems of which our children are a part, these issues are not developmentally appropriate for study by young children. The Watershed
School concentrates first on educating children about things close at hand—the schoolyard habitat, the boreal forest and its inhabitants, the role of permafrost in the arctic ecosystem. By acquiring a strong understanding of, appreciation for, and connection to natural systems of the Tanana Valley, our children will develop an expanding foundation of knowledge about the environment as well as evolving more meaningful understandings of the challenges that it faces.