I love to see students consistently connect with nature through Brookwood’s many outdoor programs. I have seen first-hand our kindergartners work with monarch butterflies, including planting milkweed seeds to produce a more robust habitat; second graders caring for our chickens and sharing their love for them; fourth graders creating colorful maps of the Brookwood watershed, the heart of our verdant campus; fifth graders discovering crabs and other marine life in the tide pools of Black Cove Beach; seventh graders designing outdoor experiments (complete with dependent and independent variables) they carry out along the beautiful coastline of West Beach. Outdoor learning takes place every day at Brookwood. The very essence of our school is inexorably tied to its magnificent campus – from streams to salt marsh, from the woods to the beehives – kids and teachers alike love Brookwood’s connection to the outdoors! (Read: Outdoor Learning at Brookwood)
When I first arrived at Brookwood School eleven years ago (as a parent of a kindergartner), I was notably impressed, as many are, with the physical campus – Cutler Pond along the entrance road, woodlands adjoining three sides of the property, and two smaller creeks that ultimately lead, as all land water does, to the ocean. What I could not see at that time were the many hidden gems of nature that exist in close proximity to our campus: vernal ponds that each spring fill with eggs of spotted salamander and wood frog; a beaver pond that provides annual evidence of nature’s mammalian carpenters; a salt marsh, teeming with a broad spectrum of life, from the smallest of bacteria to our school mascot, the great blue heron.
What I have come to learn in the years since becoming a teacher at Brookwood is equally impressive – the day-to-day manner in which our science faculty makes great use of Brookwood’s natural resources. While all faculty embrace the environment, it is within the science department and its spiraling curriculum we see Brookwood’s core commitment to outdoor education. First, we work to reacquaint our students with the outdoors – all students are given wonderful opportunities to visit and interact with, on a first-hand basis, nature at its best. Second we aim to educate students about the impact, both positive and negative, that humans have on our planet. Third, we aim to introduce students to scientific methods that allow objective study of the environmental health of our outdoor ecosystems. And finally, we maintain several collaborations with local and global non-profits – e.g. Salem Sound Coast Watch (Salem, MA) and the Island School (Eleuthra, Bahamas) – as a reminder all people share in the wonder of our planet!
– Dr. Henry Oettinger
Science Department Coordinator and
Grade 5 Math and Science Teacher