Hopkins elementary school expanding popular outdoor learning program

At Gatewood Elementary School in Hopkins, a new program is getting top grades from students.

“Outdoors is fun because you get to make forts and play with sticks and stuff,” 6-year-old Jerome Tyrrell said.

This year the public school launched an “outdoor immersion” program for its 75 kindergartners.  Most days, 50-75% of the learning takes place outdoors — even in the winter. 

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Kindergarten teacher Ellen Dischinger says teachers aren’t just teaching to benchmark standards but also adding extra activities such as measuring snow, identifying animal tracks and tapping maple trees for syrup.

“They can climb tree stumps, dig in the snow, build stick forts. Engagement has been incredible, and they can get their wiggles out and focus more,” she said.

Next year, Gatewood is expanding the program to first grade.  The year after that, it will become a school-wide program.