How many schools are lucky enough to have a nature center right next door? The Chestnut Ridge Nature Center and its five hiking trails sits just behind Chestnut Ridge Elementary School, and teachers are taking full advantage of the special resource.
Physical Education teacher Brooke Elnicky said, “We’re trying to provide a greater variety of learning environments and opportunities for our students this year due to COVID-19. We’ve been going outside as much as possible, into the playground and our ‘outdoor gymnasium.’ The Nature Center is a perfect addition for hiking and exploring.”
Elnicky and fellow PE teacher Greg Kincaid, along with CRS Assistant Principal Jennifer Dixon, led their classes on short, one-mile hikes along narrow trails through bushes, trees, grasses and flowers in October. Rules were laid out before entering the woods: students learned safe hiking procedures and were encouraged to respect the trail and not to damage the plants or any animal or insect life. Everyone was reminded to stay healthy by social distancing and keeping their masks on.
Kindergarteners and first-graders were appropriately awed by their adventure. Jae’Lah couldn’t wait to start. “This looks like it’s going to be fun!” she said. Victoria was also ready to investigate nature – “This is a big jungle!” Third- and fourth-graders were a little more experienced. Hayden was familiar with the trail “because I used to come here with my Boy Scout troop.” Addison and Olivia had hiked other local trails, and enjoyed comparing them.
The PE teachers were happy with all the enthusiasm for healthy activity and learning. Elnicky said, “We are definitely planning on heading out to the Nature Center more often during this school year. We’ll want to take a look to see how the trails change with the different seasons.”