Forget packets and worksheets; Watershed School keeps kids connected to nature, at home

Watershed Charter School is redefining environmental arts learning and keeping kids connected to nature during COVID

Jessie Lehson, Watershed Public Charter School

Imagine that you’ve poured your heart into creating a charter school where a tremendously diverse group of children have access to educational greenspace, hands-on natural learning and shared responsibility for outdoor features like a henhouse and vegetable garden. Imagine harnessing your background as an artist and educator to integrate the power of art and nature to bring project-based learning to kids from truly varied backgrounds.

Then, in the blink of an eye, COVID-19 forces you to shift your school to virtual learning. 

Our campus had been central to our students’ studies. Suddenly we had to rethink everything. How could we deliver hands-on, environmentally-focused projects to our kids so they could continue learning at home? We scrambled to write projects on the fly. We created a remote learning platform and gathered supplies to send home with students. We worked with partner organizations to locate plants, field guides, binoculars—anything that could bring our natural classroom into students’ homes. 

With a mindful eye to parents’ own needs during the pandemic, we encouraged families to investigate urban parks and pockets of nature in their own neighborhoods. We actively worked to redefine expectations of “nature.” Trees growing along the street are nature; so are the plants growing in your sidewalk cracks. And while I hope all children can someday experience a walk in the woods, training yourself to notice the nature that is already around you is a practice that all of us can benefit from during this difficult time. Urban nature is everywhere, once you start using your eagle eyes to look for it!

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