Since SSJC first opened, in 2010, we have incorporated the value of bringing all our students into the surrounding parks, every day, regardless of the weather, as we believe in the importance of creating a positive relationship with our environment. Our backyard is a recognized Wildlife Habitat, and the children are at the core of its upkeep and sustainability. The identity of our school community is intertwined in nature.
We are looking to deepen this commitment by embarking upon the development of an outdoor program for a Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Class for the 2017-2018 school year. The class will enter Jersey City Reservoir No. 3, where they will spend their school day.
The concept of the forest school is prevalent throughout Scandinavia, and is gaining appreciation and acceptance in the United States, across all age levels. Outdoor education, in general, is mostly limited to enrichment experiences; we seek to engage these children in a full-time, “classroom without walls” year. Our program will be the first of its kind in Hudson County, and will complement the growing field of organizations supplementing traditional, indoor teaching with a nature component.
While the benefits of outdoor education are well-documented, and span development across multiple aptitudes, we have an additional purpose in our mission. A 1993 study by J.A. Palmer found that “the single most important factor in developing personal concern for the environment was positive experiences in the outdoors during childhood.” (Helping Children Learn to Love the Earth Before We Ask Them to Save it, a DEEF Policy Brief). By exposing our children to this amazing resource, we strive to inspire life-long love and dedication to not just their local community here in Jersey City, but beyond, toward the conservation of our environment as they grow and move on.