Outdoor Learning Leads to Curious Students with Emma Huvos


Emma Huvos, an Outdoor Permaculturalist Educator, shares a bit about her background and philosophy for the concentration on nature and natural unbounded environments in early education. While in college, Emma began to explore and evaluate her past and current education. Despite being an accomplished conforming student who followed the structure rules achieving all of the goals and standards set forth in the traditional educational system she still felt unfulfilled. She realized a very large missing component in her life was her disconnection from nature.

After graduation she accepted a position in at a charter school in Washington DC. For the first year, because of construction within the school, her students were not able to play outside or regularly experience education and play beyond the confines of the classroom. While doing her best to bring the outdoors in and grow plants taped to windows she knew this wasn’t enough. Once construction was complete she was able to take her students the following year outside and garden with them. She witnessed many students blossom in this alternative environment.  She then founded a rather unique preschool environment for children ranging in age from 3-6 on her family’s 80 Acre Farm called the Riverside Nature School.

Emma shares those philosophies and educators that guided her in the formation of this school while explaining the many benefits to children over the long term by allowing exploration and play to be the guiding force for learning versus the traditional academic and obedience based objectives. She leaves us excited for the potential to expand this philosophy and type of school for the country and hopeful that it can reach all children regardless of circumstances.

During this interview we also talk about:

  • German WaldKindergarten schools that served as her inspiration, along with others in the UK and a handful of American schools doing this type of learning by exploring.
  • 3 – 6 year-olds who learn by play or by doing don’t hit that “summer slide” where they forget what they learned from memorization during the school year. Everything is in context and everything creates a story, which cements it into a young learner’s brain.
  • The benefits of this type of learning, including creating the space for beneficial risk taking, and a “Love and Logic” approach to discipline, including the child in the problem solving aspects of conflict resolution.
  • And, Emma’s goals of creating lifelong learners through curious play, early on.

If you like this interview, please pass it along, share it with your friends, teachers, educators and parents so they can join our movement of providing a quality education for all kids.

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