Learning from Nature

We spend a fair bit of time outside each day because we learn a lot from nature and because it makes us happy. Whether it's time in the garden, on the hiking trail, or on the patio directly outside our classroom, we learn about nature's dynamic and profoundly complex systems.

For recess, Hudson Lab School is proud to be part of the growing adventure playground movement. Modeled after a junkyard, adventure playgrounds allow kids to teach themselves and control the content and direction of their play. The adults stand back.

I first learned about adventure playgrounds in an article entitled "The Overprotected Kid" in The Atlantic. As someone inspired by Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the idea of a junkyard teeming with kids exploring the extreme edges of safety made me cringe. Overriding that feeling, however, was sadness for what our overprotected kids have lost: The thrill of being left alone to explore the world and lead their own messy adventures.

Hudson Lab School’s adventure playground—known as our Wild Playspace—is a magical nook in the forest built by our students and community. Swinging ropes, felled trees, a book nook, and loose parts provide opportunity for imaginative play and building.

More than just the physical space, we give kids the time to play because play is serious business. Play is vital to a child’s development. It boosts cognition and concentration, and according to the World Economic Forum, play equips children “with the skills necessary to tackle humanity’s future, such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving. To be a superhero is to lead; to host a teddy for tea is to organize; to build a fort is to innovate: to play is to learn.”

So every day in rain, shine, or snow, our kids head outside for a quick mindfulness meeting and an hour of play with our kind-hearted playworker Mo who trusts them, watches their progress and learning, and supports their play without intervening.