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No Child Left Inside Using the Environment to Fuel the Curriculum By Karen S. Harris Pot Spring Elementary, where I was the principal until very recently, is a diverse school in the suburbs north of Baltimore. Its students come from 28 countries and speak 32 languages. Their families can be wealthy or living in public housing. Over my four years at Pot Spring, we were able to unify the school and improve its academic achievement and discipline by looking outside—literally. Throughout the curriculum, the focus was on the environment. And using the environment as a context for learning all subjects led to more engaging, rigorous, and authentic lessons for students, especially our most reluctant learners. Today, the school incorporates the use of the outdoors to teach math, reading, science, art, language arts, and other subjects. It is not unusual to see students at Pot Spring Elementary applying their measurement skills to the task of determining the area needed for a garden. Students can be seen writing descriptive essays at the school’s outdoor-learning classroom. They apply their writing skills in letters sent to persuade Baltimore County officials to grant permission to plant trees outside their classrooms, providing welcome shade...

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