Taking the Classroom into the Great Outdoors at TCS

Educational research and cognitive science have long shown that the best learning happens when connections are built between what is learned and what is experienced. At TCS, we integrate our Outdoor Education program with academic subjects to immerse our students in a connected and engaging learning experience in the great outdoors. 

Last year, the Outdoor Education program marked 40 years of challenging students and teachers to take school into the woods. The program exposes students to the physical and ecological diversity of Georgia, nurtures character development and builds lifelong skills, as the program’s challenges gradually increase through each grade level. 

Before students embark on their first overnight camping trip in third grade, many learning experiences in kindergarten through second grade prepare them for a night in the woods. Sleeping in tents during naptime, hikes in Piedmont Park, observing leaves and insects, visits to nature centers, studying the Chattahoochee River and climbing Stone Mountain are a few examples. 

In the spring of their third-grade year, TCS students go on their first two-night camping trip with the school. The trip extends a native tree study through observation while hiking through the Piedmont region of Georgia at Dauset Trails Nature Center. 

Fourth graders begin the year with a two-night camping trip to Black Rock Mountain State Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains and in the spring, they spend three nights at an environmental center in coastal Georgia, exploring barrier island ecosystems. 

TCS fifth graders extend their classroom studies of Native Americans with an overnight trip to explore the interaction of the Muscogee people and the Piedmont ecosystem and later in the year, they visit the coastal plain of Georgia for a three-night kayaking trip. 

The addition of the Middle Grades program at TCS has opened up opportunities for new outdoor explorations. Over the three years in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, our students raft on the Nantahala River, practice team-building, learn orienteering skills, travel to Puerto Rico and experience an extended backpacking trip in the North Carolina mountains. 

Exploring the world around us can teach our children to slow down and notice details they may not otherwise see. From immersing themselves in swamp ecosystems and “leaving no trace” on the scenic trails of state and national parks, to planning trip activities, creating menus, cooking meals and paddling through bird rookeries, TCS’s Outdoor Education program takes learning into forests and mountains and along rivers and coasts, where students are challenged to take on tasks they have yet to experience. Students not only learn to spend the night away from home and carry everything they need on their backs for several days, but also grow into confident individuals who find success in taking on the academic, physical, and emotional challenges they encounter in the great outdoors.