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The Gordon School

The outdoor classroom

Play-based learning in Gordon's outdoors:

Gordon was founded in 1910 by pediatrician Dr. Helen West Cooke as an Open Air School.

Windows were kept open year round to encourage good health, clear thinking and a strong relationship to nature. Today, ample time to play in that fresh air is still a daily priority.

Both indoors and out, there remains a schoolwide commitment to supporting healthy social, emotional, and physical development. Experiential education, movement breaks and mindfulness practices enhance classroom learning. Robust health and wellness, physical education and after school athletics programs complement unstructured outdoor recess. Student fitness and growth are treated holistically, in the spirit of Gordon’s founding belief that “mind and heart should be educated with equal care.”

 A day in Gordon's outdoors:

Gordon has a huge, beautiful campus that was designed for progressive education.

All the classrooms open to the outdoors, and having this campus is like having an extra teacher on the team.

Students come out of science class, or from quiet reading, or social studies, and these outdoors are there ready to be shaped by their imaginations. The stream is a place to test water power. Bushes become an imaginary village full of elves and dragons. A tree serves as a flagpole for a new nation.

There’s a nature trail that surrounds the entire campus, that’s marked, but there are dozens of other special places. They’re hidden in plain sight, all over the campus, spots that are special to one child, or a group of friends. And years later, when graduates, come back to campus, they’ll come upon these spaces - these rocks, or bushes - and the memories come rushing back.

Our campus not only provides a place for exploration and play, but an opportunity to learn important lessons about conservation and stewardship. During the 2020-2021 school year, the need for outdoor classrooms resulted in overuse of the grassy areas surrounding our pond. Third graders analyzed the situation and helped educate the entire community about doing what we can to save the pond area for future friends. Read more about that here.

The only thing better than a snow day is a snowy day at school with your pals:

Gordon outdoors: by the numbers

12 acre campus

70% open space and forest

3 playgrounds

1 stream & 1 pond

4 outdoor classrooms

2 recesses daily

Over 60 minutes average daily outdoor time

Outdoor play in rain, shine, or snow

More stories from Gordon's outdoor classrooms: