ROCHESTER — Approximately 120 Maple Street Magnet School students explored the designated outdoor learning spaces at the Hanson Pines Trails Friday, closely examining trees, foliage, wildlife and the Cocheco River.
In spring 2018, Maple Street Magnet students reached out to the Riverwalk Committee and formed a partnership to establish outdoor classrooms within the Hanson Pines Trails. Since then, students have continued to be involved as the outdoor learning spaces are planned and installed.
The Riverwalk Committee is still finalizing plans for the handful of learning spaces that have been identified on the trails, but has begun fundraising to build a small amphitheater at one location. Another location features large fallen trees arranged in a circle, creating a natural place for people to sit and talk or listen to a lecture.
On Friday, students were paired in groups of two, and each partnership included one older student and one younger student. Fifth grade students were paired with kindergarten students, fourth grade students were paired with first grade students, and second and third grade students worked together.
“These outdoor learning spaces are a wonderful asset and resource for our students, and it was exciting to see their faces light up this morning as they learned about the natural world,” said Danielle Devoid, a fifth grade teacher. “This field trip also brought our students together. Younger students had the opportunity to look up to older children while they completed various activities, and the older students were happy to help the younger children.”
Working in teams, students used their senses to discuss what they saw, heard and felt on the trails. Students then used paper and crayons to create leaf rubbings, and collected small items such as sticks and leaves to bring back to school. While exploring the area, students also brainstormed names for the outdoor learning classrooms, including “Leaning Tree of Pines,” “Riverside” and the “Leaning Tree.”
After other students left the site for lunch, third and fifth grade students began testing the water of the Cocheco River with assistance from scientists in the University of New Hampshire Docent program. The students have been partnering with the UNH scientists each week this September through a “Stream Safari” program to study the health of the Cocheco River.
“Our students are incredibly receptive to the outdoors, and that was clear today as they walked the trails and shared their discoveries with one another,” said Principal Erin Mahoney. “We’re so thankful to the Riverwalk Committee for designating these areas for outdoor learning, and to UNH as well. These community partnerships make an incredible difference in our children’s education, and we’re so thankful for their time and help.”