Friday, March 24, 2023

California Outdoor School Shows Any Classroom Lesson Can Also Happen In Nature

I am pleased to share that Camino De Santiago Nature School, where core academics are woven into the study of nature topics for unique learning, is expanding with increased enrollment and a second location in Nevada City, California. The first location is in Orange County, California. And we’re accepting new applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

Since 2013, we have been teaching math and language arts through discovery of nature in the canyons and parks of Orange County. Today, demand has increased as more parents are seeing the many benefits of outdoor learning, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Any lesson that can happen in a classroom can also happen outside.

Growing up, I spent endless hours playing and exploring the untamed natural areas of Wisconsin. So when I became a mother in Orange County, California, I returned to my roots of romping about and playing in the outdoors with my daughter and enrolled her in a nature kindergarten program. This is when a seed was planted and I decided to launch my own nature school, finding that any lesson that can happen in a classroom can also happen outside. 

As the saying goes, if you can imagine it, you can make it happen, so that’s what I tried to do. Today, Camino De Santiago Nature School is a school where our students are outdoors six hours per day. They learn how to read, write and do math through the study and exploration of nature and its plants, animals and geology while in nature. They touch, feel, smell, hear and experiment with the plants, animals and minerals they study because the plants, animals and minerals are quite literally right at their fingertips. They’re not just reading about them in books while sitting in a classroom. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood” and this is what we embrace.

We’re a full academic school that teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, science and history entirely outdoors and every subject is learned through nature.

Camino De Santiago Nature School is not your typical nature school that meets only once per week to focus on ecology or survival skills. Rather, we’re a full academic school that teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, science and history entirely outdoors and every subject is learned through nature. We provide a student-to-instructor ratio of 6:1 to ensure maximum connection and learning.

Our ultimate mission is to connect humans with nature and to connect humans with one another. If humans are connected to nature, they will care for it and our planet. Just as, if humans are connected with one another in a real way, they will care for one another too. I have always found truth in nature and seek to share that truth with children, especially during this politically charged time.

Dawn Robinette

Dawn Robinette is the founder and director of Camino De Santiago Nature School, which she founded in January 2013. It serves as an alternative and unique educational resource for children 5 to 12 years old that provides them with academic experiences while immersed in nature. Outdoor classroom settings are in Orange County and the Nevada City area, where her family recently purchased land.

As a young adult, Dawn pursued a career in architecture and interior design. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a bachelor's of architecture in 1993, where the school’s philosophy of "learning by doing" resonated with her. After establishing a design firm and retail store with her husband, she returned to her studies at the University of Washington in 2005 to pursue a teaching career.

Dawn’s master’s thesis was based on design-build and she spent nine months, as a teacher’s assistant, working on a design-build project in which her class built a multigenerational home for the indigenous community of Yakima, Washington. Dawn also taught young adults at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Art Institute of Orange County.


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