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John Muir Outdoor School takes class outside

At the John Muir Outdoor School, integrating nature with education happens every day.

Posted: Aug 27, 2019 3:42 AM
Updated: Aug 27, 2019 7:50 AM

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Trickling water, bird feeders and leafy greens. This courtyard often doubles as a classroom and even cafeteria at the John Muir Outdoor School. 

"We get to go outside a lot and the teaching is different," said eighth grader Nico Moore. 

It is different. Students do learn about core classes like social studies and literature in the classroom. But on Fridays, they have class outside at Lithia Park or a place called Earth Teach. 

"It's really important to not just have an outdoor education week where it's one week of the whole year where they do outdoor stuff, but every day," said Outdoor Education Coordinator Elliot Drake-Maurer. 

Eighth graders even go on backpacking trips each year. Teachers said experiences like this encourage students to care for the environment. 

"It's still our responsibility as a school, as a community to make things better," Drake-Maurer said. "Even though it's not caused by me, I can still do something to make it better."

And become future leaders. 

"These kids are going to be doers and stewards of the Earth," said Principal Rebecca Gyarmathy. "And think of ways to reverse the damage that we've done to our Earth."

Nico said he's already got some experience being a leader. He's been at the school since kindergarten and now he's in the eighth grade. 

"Other middle schools don't have kindergarteners and fifth graders," Moore said. "So, it's good to have people who look up to you." 

The school recently got approval to add the word "outdoor" to its title this past summer. Teachers said that the school's outdoor curriculum is popular and that's why students have to apply to get in. 

The school will have a bubble class next year. That means they can enroll more students than normal. That bubble class will be for the kindergarten grade. The school will be able to enroll a total of 20 new kindergarteners. There might also be open spots in different grades. 

Teachers said the school's unique, outdoor curriculum is popular because it helps students think about the world around them.

"When it comes time for them to make choices, vote, decide where they spend their money, they're going to remember these positive outdoor experiences," Drake-Maurer said. "And go, that matters to me. I want to keep that safe."

You can fill out an application at the school or online. Applications will open in late February or early March. They will close in April. All applications will be entered into a random lottery. 

Siblings of students already enrolled at the John Muir Outdoor School are prioritized. 

For more information about the application process click here

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