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Hugh Cole 5th grade class is Thriving Outside and getting amazing results!


Something exciting has been happening at Hugh Cole School. If our calculations are correct, Hugh Cole 5th grade teacher Lynn Palmieri’s class has done about 210 hours of outdoor learning since the school year began.



“For me, this started 3 years ago when the students were so restricted in their little space in the classroom. We went out for mask breaks, and I thought: why not stay outside for the lesson? The kids could spread out and take off their masks, and they weren't confined to a small space in class with no fresh air.”


Lynn and her partner teacher and fellow outdoor education enthusiast Ashley O’Blenis were perfect candidates for our Teacher Learning Circle, as they were eager to connect and share knowledge with like-minded teachers from other schools.



“Outdoor learning provides opportunities for students to learn with observation and inquiry-based learning throughout our Science units,” Ashley offers. Lynn and Ashley often collaborate, merging their 5th-grade classes for special outdoor learning opportunities such as the Water Filtration Investigation. The teachers tested out this activity during a TLC session. They then had the opportunity to try it with their students and report back to the group.



“The outdoors helps me focus and I find the space relieving”- 5th grade student Djuna


While the teachers enjoy doing these types of exciting activities, the secret to their success might just be in keeping it simple. If you visit Ms. Palmieri’s class during their math block (like we did), you’ll find them outdoors. She’s working with a group of 6 students at a picnic table while other students are working individually or in partners. The students appear to be in that relaxed alert state that is perfect for learning. Every student is on task.


Principal Colin Grimsey has noticed the same. “What I notice when I visit is a sense of calm, relaxed focus on what they are doing. Students pay no attention to me unless I ask them a question about what they are working on. I nearly always get a solid description of a key academic concept such as 'characterization in the book I'm reading' and 'how different filters affect a water sample.' I leave feeling a bit more centered myself.


According to Grimsey, there are other signs that that outdoor teaching is yielding positive academic results.


“Recently, Bristol Warren Regional School District curriculum coordinators singled out 5th-grade teachers at Hugh Cole for dramatic improvements in student performance on middle of year assessments. One thing that has changed this year is the commitment of two teachers to Thrive Outside concepts”.




“Outdoor learning provides students a fresh, bright, and inviting atmosphere to learn. It breaks up the mundane environment,” explains Ashley. It’s smiles all around when Ms. O’Blenis takes her class outside for group work and to pair up as “reading buddies” to the kindergarteners.


“Weather permitting, we are outside all five days for at least an hour and a half,” notes Lynn. “I was able to transfer outdoor chairs from the middle school which makes it possible to go outside when the ground is wet”.


At a moment in time where most children spend less than 10 minutes a day outdoors and 44 hours a week on screens (source: Children & Nature Network), Palmieri, O’Blenis and their fellow Teacher Learning Circle teachers are trailblazers on a crucial path. Connection to nature is considered by childhood experts to be critical for healthy social, emotional, intellectual and physical development, not to mention the best way to teach pro-environmental behaviors.


“My students enjoy working outside and find the sounds and smells relaxing. I've found that when working outdoors, the behavioral issues decrease while the work production increases,” Lynn observes. She gets a laugh from them class when she tells us that ”Their progress is unbeLEAFable. The result is a breath of fresh air!”


Perhaps the benefits of outdoor education are best understood in the words of her students.

“The outdoors helps me focus and I find the space relieving” shares Ms. Palmieri's student Djuna.

“It’s calming and spacious” agrees her classmate Kimber.


Thrive Outside’s Teacher Learning Circle is offered FREE to K-12 teachers in RI.


Written by Sheila Dobbyn, Director of Development Consultant for Thrive Outside.


94 views1 comment

תגובה אחת


Great article! Bravo to the teachers and students at Hugh Cole who are "Thriving" and learning in the great outdoors!

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