Signature Programs

Outdoor Education


Outdoor Education is education in, about and for the out of doors. In an increasingly urban world, nature plays a central part in the education of the whole child. Direct experiences help students to gain a deeper understanding of life around them, to foster respect for an understanding of the the interrelationships within the natural environment and develop an appreciation of people’s interdependence with the natural world.


A distinguishing feature of the outdoor education program at The Orchard School is that it is more than nature studies in the woods during science classes. The outdoor education coordinator teams with classroom teachers, parent volunteers, and community resources to involve children in all grade levels in activities year-round. These activities are appropriately integrated with classroom units to support, reinforce and enrich the classroom curriculum and may take place in classrooms, at various sites on the school grounds and at other locations within the greater community. Real-life experiences enable children to utilize social and academic skills and to make the connections for experiencing history, applying math and science or understanding the concept of interdependence. Skills and concepts learned through activities and discussions in the classroom are greatly enhanced when the learning moves outside.

  • All of the measurements, plant and animal identifications, chemical tests and observations of the land use along the banks of the White River are gathered and interpreted to analyze not only the quality of the water, but the interrelationships of man and nature that determines that water quality. Technology then becomes the tool that allows students to record and share their data with the greater community.
  • Group work on the challenge course provides increasingly difficult experiential activities designed to foster teamwork, communication, problem solving and conflict resolution skills through shared adventures.
  • Many gardens at the school provide students of all ages with experience in many of “nature's cycles of life” while applying skills in math, art and writing.
  • Identifying maple trees, setting taps, collecting/measuring sap, stoking a fire to boil the sap, stirring, filtering and finally tasting the finished, "real maple syrup" on a pancake cooked over an open fire is a long-time tradition and memory shared by all Orchard students and helps them to understand the process and hard work involved in making maple syrup.
All of these experiences of interactive learning help children to expand their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Methods of Delivery

The Outdoor Education Coordinator is responsible for coordinating activities, programs and resources for this program. The coordinator works with all students, teachers and parent groups that are planning an outdoor experience. The processes and methods of outdoor education at The Orchard School are consistent with the best of what is known about how children learn. In the outdoors, much of the data needed for answering questions is obtained through direct observation using all the senses. The learner is actively involved in the learning process through discovery, exploration and adventure. Students are then guided to the resources that will satisfy their natural curiosity and that will enable them to answer questions and develop concepts from concrete experiences. The outdoor activity may be short term lesson or it may be a longer unit of study with an outdoor focus lasting a week or even several weeks.


In addition to the experiences that support, reinforce and enrich the classroom curriculum, the Outdoor Education program also has its own scope and sequence implemented at each grade level through the following identified "strands.":
  • Team building
  • Way finding
  • Ecology (plants, animals, environmental issues)
  • Adventure on the water (middle school only)
  • Outdoor living/life skills 
Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy as to Students: The Orchard School values diversity and seeks talented students. Orchard admits students of any race, color, national origin and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. Orchard does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, and athletic and other school-administered programs.