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Riverside School District in Chattaroy integrates nature into curriculum

The forest attached to Riverside School District is the largest owned by a school in Washington state.

CHATTAROY, Wash. — The dozens of acres of forest attached to Riverside School District are owned by a school in Washington State but they have gone unused until recently.

This summer, teachers in the district are learning how to incorporate nature into their lesson plans. 

Pacific Education Institute instructor Randall James says that there is significant potential for academic and personal growth of children who are immersed in nature more often. 

"You get them out here, and something happens," James said. "They calm down. They slow down... You give them permission to immerse themselves in the quiet, they do."

The lessons don't have to be science oriented. James said that anything can be taught outdoors, including social studies, English and math. 

He said the new way to learn is centered on connecting students to their surroundings. 

"I think it's critical that kids get that same feeling. I actually think kids are cheated. They become handicapped in their lives not knowing what is out there in the marshes and the fields and the forests. So I think it's a good start," he said. 

The new lesson plans are not changing any current curriculum. Ultimately, students are learning the same concepts but in a more engaging way.

The goal of the program is to have students learn through nature, starting simple in kindergarten and expanding into full research projects as the students grow academically. 

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