At Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, one of our main focuses is fostering connections. Whether it is those between students, counselors, teachers, naturalists, or even our link with non humans, we suggest the idea that everything is connected. Once this awareness is brought into consciousness, our students realize that they are an integral part of the world.
Too often do we hear about the disconnect that exists between young people and the natural world. Tonight in the dining hall, a young girl began crying because she “felt bad for the chickens” that we were eating for dinner. I thought to myself, “What a great moment to connect this person to where their food comes from!” Perhaps she will become a vegetarian and perhaps she was shocked to learn that the chickens she befriended at recess time could potentially be someone’s dinner, but, nevertheless, this young person made a connection between the Earth and herself. Meat will no longer be something vague that comes from a package. For the rest of her life, she will know that, whether it be plant or animal, food comes from something that was once alive.
We hope that our students understand that they are an important part of their “ecosystems” back at their homes, as well as aware that they are part of a larger human family. Like banana slugs in the redwood forest, each of us has a role that we play in our communities. It is up to us to walk gently, be compassionate, seek to understand others, and help to build strong, supportive ecosystems that everyone can thrive in.
Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School teachers do this by reinforcing the concepts of sharing resources, peacefully solving conflicts, communicating with calm language, and by working together to solve common goals.
These are life skills that our students gain each day while in a cabin, at the dinner table, or hiking through the forest. Learning in the outdoors is a communal education. Students learn observational skills at the tide pools, creative thinking skills during team challenges, and use their imaginations during morning song time.
It is our passion to help young people realize that they are the “YOU” in “commYOUnity” and shape the world that they live in in a multitude of ways. Simple acts of kindness have a complex impact in our web of life. We decide how others around us are treated each time we interact with someone. How will YOU shape your community?