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Educators from Carolina Friends School in Durham explore the relationship between health and education.

CAROLINA FRIENDS SCHOOL is an independent Quaker school serving students 3-18. Contact the school at:

4809 Friends School Road
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone: ( 919) 383-6602

Hallie Cherry teaches at Carolina Friends School’s Chapel Hill Early School. Hallie joined the CFS community in 2006. She earned a BS in Child Development and Family Studies from East Carolina University in 1996 and has been working with young children ever since. Some of her favorite moments in teaching include making observations and discoveries about the natural world, reading with children, and following children's questions and interests in the classroom as well as outdoors. Hallie, her husband Dave and their two children live in Durham

Bringing the Outdoors into Distance Learning

By Hallie Cherry

When we first learned the news that we would shift into a drastically different learning model in mid-March, I, like many teachers, felt confused, unclear, and in need of direction. In the first days of at-home learning I found myself sitting at one end of my dining table talking with and reading to the children as well as leading some singing and movement with them. I missed my interactions with the children in person, and in particular the learning that went on in our outdoor learning environment. Being in such a stressful situation, I felt a great deal of peace outside during my time at home.

Hallie Cherry

I decided to create what I called my front yard classroom to share ideas, provocations, and activities with the children on Zoom (on occasion I engaged with them in my back porch classroom as well.) On the days I led our morning meetings I greeted the children in the front yard and we then embarked on activities such as making a bug hotel, sprouting seeds, creating rainbows with nature, making creatures with items found in nature, crafting bird feeders, and painting with mud. I designed activities that families could do without shopping, simply by using what they could find in and around their homes. After each project I sent the children off into their day with these ideas and their families often shared back with photos and text.

I have had an interest in nature and designing outdoor learning environments for many years. In 2019, this led me to complete an action-research project related to how children approach risk in Outdoor Learning Environments. With a professional development grant, I was able to expand that research with travel to England and Denmark to research playgrounds and how children and parents interact with those environments.

Having an opportunity to engage with children and families and also with the natural world, while on-line, made an enormous difference in how I navigated this new, unfamiliar learning environment. I felt more connected with my children as we did some of the things we would have been doing if we were able to learn together in-person.