At DC, we believe that outdoor learning enriches the curriculum, enhances the joy of learning, and serves as a wonderful platform for observing the handiwork and intentionality of God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe
Opening doors to new ways of learning...
DC Lower School students experience the blessings of our beautiful thirty-three acre campus as their teachers take the learning outdoors to our sprawling hills, hardwood forest, running stream, pond and meadow- a wonderful outdoor context in which students can explore and discover! Whether scooping up tadpoles from the nearby pond, or conducting stream studies, the school grounds enable students to think deeply, work collaboratively, practice observation skills, and solve problems in a real world setting. For many, learning outdoors intensifies the learning experience as students apply their learning within a new context. It is not uncommon to see students exploring the outdoor classroom during Bible, math, library, science and creative writing classes.The elementary years are foundational to introducing science content as well as developing skills for further learning. Lower School students are naturally curious and often develop an interest in science early in their development. Spending time outdoors has many positive benefits for students, including promoting a positive attitude about science and learning, teaching environmental stewardship, and increasing student achievement. From the earliest observation of watching chlorophyll disappear from changing foliage, to discovering “invisible” pond animals swim under a microscope, students’ natural curiosity is piqued when given the opportunity to be outside in nature.
Nature studies are an integral part of science learning. Pre-K and Kindergarten students maintain our bird gardens and annually monitor the bluebird boxes along the bluebird trail on the property. A wide variety of wildlife on the campus provide many teachable moments for first graders learning about animal habitats. Second graders are diligently composting and doing their part to learn about environmental stewardship. Third graders maintain two butterfly gardens as they annually tag and release monarch butterflies as part of their annual migration. Fourth graders learn about conservation, protecting our natural resources and biodiversity. Fifth graders excitedly chase after fiddler crabs as they experience the seashore ecosystem first hand as part of their field trip to Cape May beaches. Every fall and spring, our Jr. Naturalists can be found busily planting sunflowers in the sunflower garden and harvesting vegetables from the school garden.
Recently our school grounds received Wildlife Habitat Certification by the National Wildlife Federation and the Delaware Nature Society. This certification recognizes our Lower School’s efforts to create school grounds that improve habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs, and other wildlife by providing essential elements needed by all wild life – natural food sources, clean water, cover, and places to raise young. As teachers take learning outdoors, they find the experience enriches the curriculum and enhances the joy of learning for students of all ages.
- Pre-K: A Close up Look at Owls
- Kindergarten: Pond Pondering with Amphibians
- 1st Grade: Maple Sugaring
- 2nd Grade: Soil - Digging Deeper
- 3rd Grade: Evaluating a Landscape & Monarchs
- 4th Grade: Bluebird Monitoring
- 5th Grade: Seashore Ecosystem
Our experiences for Pre-K focus on creating an awareness and appreciation for the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of nature. Pre-K students take part in an Owl presentation and meet non-releasable owls as they learn about these animals and perform an owl pellet dissection to investigate their diet.
Students will learn the history of making maple syrup from sap and will use their senses to identify maple trees. Students will practice tapping a tree to experience how early Americans made maple syrup and search for wildlife that are dependent on maple trees for surviving the winter. Students will then observe maple syrup being made and will taste the finished product.
Second grade students get their hands dirty as they explore types of soil and investigate nutrients that cycle through soil and into plants. Students will identify soil layers, and observe the unique characteristics of worms and their positive and negative impact on soil layers. This unit will culminate in a class project in which students share their scientific observations and communicate steps people can take to steward God-given natural resources.
Evaluating a Landscape
Through the use of our stream, maps, and hands-on experiments, third graders evaluate soil to determine where to build foundations. Students use model augers to look at soil layers and textures in different landscapes. Students also discover how a river's speed and curves are a factor in determining the best locations for bridges.
Third graders learn about the life cycle and migration patterns of the monarch butterfly. Two butterfly beds support our local monarch butterfly population as students identify, tag and release butterflies into the wild. Third grade classes participate in a monarch watch program and identify ways to promote the butterfly population.
In cooperation with the PA Bluebird Association, fourth graders monitor eight nest boxes located along a bluebird trail around the school grounds. Students collect and record bluebird activity and report back to the PA Bluebird Association. Students also write persuasive essays about their learning to win a nest box of their own.
Students conduct nature studies in the field visiting the beaches of Cape May, NJ. The tidal basin, rocky shore and seashore ecosystems are investigated. Students learn about the community of life found along the sandy shore including: mollusks, birds and plants. Up close investigations of lobsters, crabs and mollusks are a highlight as is a squid dissection lab.