We offer after-school programs, ongoing programs, school visits, and field trips. Scroll down to learn more.
What role does nature education play in our school learning environments, and what role should it play? How important is it for students to immerse in nature while learning about nature? Are our schools graduating adults and leaders who are nature-knowledgeable and nature-connected?
Flying Deer Nature Center has offered high-quality nature education experiences to local schools since 2002. Whether in the classroom, on a field trip, or right in the school’s “backyard,” Flying Deer instructors take information and facts about nature and bring them to life with engaging presentations and experiential lessons.
Our school visits, school programs, after-school programs, and field trips energize the process of learning about nature by immersing students in nature. Most of all, our programs seek to stimulate biophilia—a love of nature and land—in the minds and hearts of students, so that our world’s natural spaces might receive the careful stewardship of the next generation.
We offer weekly, biweekly, and special-event nature-education programs during and after school hours, working within each school's and grade's study plans to co-create exciting and educational cross-curricular experiences.
For example, Flying Deer and Chatham's Mary E. Dardess Elementary School have been partnering for the past six years, bringing after-school and in-school programs to challenge, empower, and educate students. The fourth-grade classes have worked with Flying Deer staff to construct a longhouse-inspired structure on the school grounds. Parents, teachers, and community members contributed to this project, which serves as an outdoor classroom and a testament to the beauty and function of what can be created with the gifts of the land.
We have also had a long-term collaboration with Mountain Road School in New Lebanon, New York, offering in-school programming for all age groups. Other schools and school districts we serve are New Lebanon Central School District; Williamstown Elementary School; Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; the Montessori School of the Berkshires; and Woodland Hill Montessori School.
Daily/weekly nature programming in the school’s “backyard”
Flying Deer’s engaging, nature-based curriculum is perfect for energetic students wishing to explore, play in, and learn about the natural world, right at their own school. Under the safe and skilled leadership of a Flying Deer instructor, this series of adventurous forays into your school’s fields and forests can brings fresh and exciting perspectives to students.
Our after-school program curriculum is always inspired by the topography, ecology, and resident flora and fauna of your school’s grounds, often including:
- Wildlife Tracking: interpreting footprints and sign to discover what animals dwell there
- Survival Skills: shelter building, fire making, risk-free foraging, and more
- Species Identification: an educational way to follow up on fun encounters with frogs, salamanders, birds, and other creatures
- Birding: discovering the secret language of the birds through observing bird behavior, creating “bird skits,” and playing related games.
One, two or three-time visits to classrooms and/or the school’s “backyard”
Flying Deer’s School Programs offer a wonderful bridge of learning between the classroom’s required curricular goals and the exciting world of experience. After meeting with a classroom teacher to understand upcoming curriculum needs, a Flying Deer instructor can craft a dynamic, customized classroom presentation to meet that curriculum need. The class then takes a field excursion into the school’s “backyard” to encounter real-life examples of this curriculum.
Most of the School Program topics that we offer (listed below) can easily be linked with the following classroom curriculum requirements: Science, Ecology, Physics, History, Anthropology.
- Wildlife Tracking and Local Mammal Studies
- Traditional Wilderness Living Skills (shelter building; fire making; basket making and other crafts; foraging for wild edible, medicinal, and utilitarian plants and trees; and more)
- Plant and Tree Identification.
Ongoing, weekly nature programming in your school’s “backyard” during school hours
Can your students list which mammal species reside on their school’s grounds? Could they identify these animals’ footprints in snow? Can they identify poison ivy? Do they know which “backyard dangers” are actually myths and which are true hazards? Have they ever engaged with a traditional living skill of past inhabitants of their land? Do they hold a sense of respect for the land, an appreciation for its past, and an ownership of its future?
Our school programs were first developed with the staff at our flagship school, Mountain Road School in New Lebanon, New York. Together we created an innovative school-wide program that makes outdoor education an integral part of the school’s curriculum. On “Flying Deer Days,” once a week each semester for six consecutive weeks, school students spend the majority of their academic day outside, and the woods and nature become their classroom.
The outdoor nature curriculum crafted for schools has stimulated art, science, social studies, and writing projects in the classroom. It has also inspired younger children look to older students for excellent role modeling and mentoring in earth skills and naturalist knowledge. We look forward to crafting a similar but unique curriculum for your class, grade, or school.
A daylong, all-class or all-grade field trip to Flying Deer Nature Center
We custom-tailor field trips to the needs of your class or grade. We accommodate visits to Flying Deer Nature Center, located at 5 Abode Rd. New Lebanon, New York, for any duration and thematic focus.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive, immersive field-trip package, consider Books to Life, a Flying Deer program that offers an exciting, experiential outdoor curriculum inspired by the storyline of a specific book. Books to Life brings the contents of your beloved classroom novels to life, taking the story out of the book and into the five senses of your students.
For example, we call one iteration of this program “My Side of the Forest,” inspired by My Side of the Mountain, a middle school classic. Students learn methods for surviving in the forest, like Sam Gribley, the hero of the novel. They learn to make a shelter of sticks and leaves that can ward off rain and cold, kindle a fire using flint and steel and materials from the land, and gather acorns and learn how to make them palatable. “In short,” we tell them, “you will work together to survive, and in surviving, learn to call the forest a friend.”
Here’s what teachers have said about our school programs:
"With so many academic requirements, why does Mountain Road School choose to invest its time and resources in this way? Because we have seen the transformation that happens when children move beyond the indoor classroom. The strengthening of a child's mind, body and spirit; the strong sense of community that develops among the children; the blossoming of self-confidence; a vast knowledge of plants, animals, habitats, and ecosystems; the development of tracking, navigation and survival skills. Most importantly, we have witnessed the discovery of self as each child comes to understand his or her place in the larger environment and begins a lifelong bond with nature."
—Aimee Johnson, former Mountain Road School Director
"I will always look upon our trip to Flying Deer as a highlight in a long career of teaching. Along with making the curricular connection to our literature unit on My Side of the Mountain in a hands-on way, there’s nothing like seeing a group of students, many of whom would normally not choose to interact with each other, coming together to achieve challenging survival goals. Flying Deer brought out the best in each child, but particularly in those kids with high natural intelligence who don’t necessarily fit the “traditional” classroom model. Those who are normally at home in nature were in their element, many for the first time enjoying the experience of being leaders among their peers. Conversely, some of my highest academic achievers found themselves uniquely challenged. I also loved seeing the transformation in those tentative, never-been-in-the-woods kids as they slowly warmed up to the experience. The opportunity to practice self-reliance skills in a safe, encouraging environment will, I’m sure, have lasting effects on all of my students."
—Isabelle Leonard, fifth-grade teacher, Williamstown Elementary School, Williamstown, Massachusetts
"As teachers, we constantly strive for student engagement, and no question, you had them engaged on all levels. What a testimonial to the power of hands-on learning! I can't say enough about your teaching, and particularly your relational skills. I believe our kids took away skills on all levels that they will draw on in years to come."
—Janice Moran, mathematics teacher, Lenox Memorial Middle and High Schools, Lenox, Massachusetts