A New Riverhead School With an Environmental Twist: Outdoor Learning

A New Riverhead School With an Environmental Twist: Outdoor Learning

Christopher Owen

School: the one word that teenagers cannot hear enough of. The first day of school marks the end of a refreshing summer outside and the beginning of a 9-month period of stress, social pressure, and trying to find a balance between schoolwork and friendships. Most of us can attest to the fact that transitioning from an unstructured environment to the daily grind school requires never comes easily, especially when our 7-hour schedule grants us little time to spend in nature and away from technology. However, for a brand new school opening in Riverhead, students will be exposed to the complete opposite: a learning environment that is physically outside in the forest with Mother Nature acting as the teacher.  


But what truly sets this school apart from the rest is its setting. Fitted with outdoor classrooms, nature trails, campsites, and an amphitheater, Hawthorn Forest Programs is a “forest school” that will take a child’s education and understanding of the environment to the next level. The school is located on a 2-acre patch of a 270-acre plot of land owned by Suffolk County (which leads to the Long Island Sound) and will have its grand opening on September 13th. As of now, enrollment is only available for kids up to 10 years old, but the age range of potential students is expected to widen as the school develops its programs and expands its property size. 


Students who attend Hawthorn Forest Program will get to experience how captivating and invigorating nature truly is. Little to no technology is involved in the curriculum, which places a strong emphasis on connecting kids to the natural world through studying language, art, and culture in addition to traditional core subjects. The lessons will be held outdoors and cover everything from basic lessons (such as cooking and whittling) to critical-thinking & problem-solving classes where students examine their personal relationship with nature. Lectures and presentations are an inevitable part of any education, but at this school, the classrooms are closed in by thickets of trees, and chairs are substituted with tree stumps. This combination will contribute to a real-world learning experience in which students are educated on problems currently affecting the world and are involved in problem-solving to mitigate the harmful impacts. 


As residents of Riverhead would describe it, Hawthorn Forest Programs is an “inclusive, communal, unique and captivating” school that will teach children the beauty of nature in hopes of not only keeping education purposeful but making it equally as enjoyable and interesting. I personally find all types of learning this way, but an indoor-classroom learning environment limits a student’s ability to freely explore their physical surroundings as part of their education. In a community as developed as Manhasset, having a chance to be one with nature and have an outlet from a competitive school atmosphere is crucial to retaining happiness. 

Source: https://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com/2021/08/106588/new-forest-school-has-mother-nature-as-a-teacher/