Elementary School Kids on Why Nature Is Important

Original story posted on Sierra Club.

Honorable Mention: Katie B., sixth grader from Ellisville, Missouri -  “The Great Outdoors”

Honorable Mention: Katie B., sixth grader from Ellisville, Missouri - “The Great Outdoors”

Last spring, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the children’s publishing company Scholastic sponsored an essay-writing contest for children in grades fourth through sixth. The contest asked students to submit essays and accompanying illustrations explaining why the outdoors matters. Nearly 2,000 kids from across the country participated.

Katie B., a sixth grader from Ellisville, Missouri mentioned in her essay:

“Swinging, sliding, and climbing at parks are only for fun, right? Not true! Parks and outdoor spaces are not only for fun, but are actually necessary for the world. Parks and outdoor spaces improve our health, environment, and relationships. 

Parks and outdoor spaces improve our health. Specifically, by going to the park, a person’s stress is decreased and happiness increased. Researchers from Finland set out to prove that parks decrease stress. When we are stressed, we release a hormone in our bodies called cortisol. The higher your stress, the more cortisol is found in your body. The researchers from Finland found that the people’s cortisol levels were lower in the park environments than in the city. They concluded that parks relax us more than being in the middle of the city. Not only by going to the park does stress decline, but feelings of happiness increase. When you exercise at the park, endorphins and serotonin are released. Endorphins are chemicals that are released in your brain with exercise. They make you feel more positive and have a better outlook on life. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain that is balanced by exercise to make you feel less anxious and depressed. Overall, you feel happier when endorphins and serotonin are energized by exercising in the park.”

Walden students enjoy days filled with open air and nature based activities because we agree with Katie B. - nature does make us feel happier!

Have you heard of a Homeschool Flex Program?! Let’s talk about how to get YOUR “flex” on as a homeschooler at Walden Community School!

Post published by Stephanie Wentworth on the OrlandoMomsBlog

Post published by Stephanie Wentworth on the OrlandoMomsBlog

As a homeschooling mom of three, who has tried public, private, and specialized schools, I feel like I’ve DONE.IT.ALL. 

The number one comment we get when others find out that we’re homeschoolers: “What about the socialization?!” It always feels like a punch in the stomach and yanks me down to about two feet tall that a total stranger would think I’m not giving my child everything they need, INCLUDING the opportunity to meet friends and build relationships.

The answer is simple: “I Flex!” (part-time)

Flex-schooling is the best of both worlds! A part-time Flex Program offers homeschool children the option to visit a school part-time as a way to supplement their home curriculum and socialization! Awesome, right?! As a homeschooler, finding a Flex Program that fits your children’s needs and also aligns with your schooling technique and values is KEY!

That’s where Walden Community School comes in! Walden offers the homeschooling community a two day and four day Part-Time Flex Program for grades 2nd-12th. They also have a K/1st program from 9am-2pm, Mon-Fri class with Fri being optional. This non-profit, tight-knit, progressive school creates a one-of-a-kind curriculum that encourages students to be passionate, motivated, and collaborative. Walden’s curriculum is discussion-based with community projects, hands-on creativity, and skill mastering in mind. Students at the school still reach all of their standards  at their own pace, while also incorporating morals and values into learning!

As a Part-Time Flex parent, you can choose to send your child two or four days out of the week. The structure is pretty simple. For grades 2nd-12th:

  • Mon/Wed – Math and Science

  • Tues/Thurs – Language Arts and History

Hours: 8:30am-11:30am which includes lunchtime (more social time for homeschoolers!)

The K/1st program from 9am-2pm, Mon-Fri class with Fri being optional.

When sending your child for a portion of the day, they’re still getting tons of the perks of a regular classroom setting while also maintaining your lessons at home! Don’t worry – the full time students only move forward on the shared lessons when our homeschooled kids are back in the classroom!

We spent an entire day at Walden Community School and left feeling like family. The students were incredibly supportive and social with one another as well as their mentors and were clearly comfortable in their environment. Students in each of the classrooms welcomed our three homeschooled little guys with open arms while sitting barefoot and criss-cross-applesauce on the floor at their level! Classrooms were empty of desks and full of relaxed seating with tables and huge white boards. The walls were all lined of past projects and filled bookcases.

At Walden’s core is innovative values and realistic expectations of every single one of their students. They focus less on skill-and-drill in the classroom and more on building a hybrid, challenging environment which allows students to focus more on their fundamentals and less on competition. Their classes have a no-shoes rule. (That’s right, NO SHOES in the classrooms!) While sitting in the 1st Grade class and taking in the teacher’s lesson, I felt like she was just a mom, teaching her homeschooling kids their daily lessons while also holding her students as accountable as a teacher out of the home should. She laughed and made jokes with her students and taught her lessons with vocals I’ve only ever seen in movies. She was inviting, encouraging, intriguing, and theatrical! The boys could have listened to her all day!


As the lessons continued, the children shouted their answers in an open discussion just as theatrical as she taught. They stood in yoga poses, sat on their knees, and visited the restroom without asking permission. When the students had a question, rather than raising their hand, they would clasp their hands. My favorite part? The Swing Pass. When students in the classrooms feel overwhelmed or just simply need a break, they retrieve the dedicated Swing Pass to spend a few minutes of alone time taking in fresh air on the wooden tree swing in the center of the school! It was a homeschooling mom’s dream and everything I want for my children when sending them to a Part-Time Flex Program!

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As the lesson ended, we made our way to the middle and high schoolers’ classrooms. I was overjoyed to hear about the community outreach program created and hosted by the high schoolers. They were empowered and excited to share that once a month they drop off donations they’ve collected of clothing, books, shoes, and puzzles to local children and families in need within the community. Their slogan “Every child deserves a smile, every once in a while!” was created along with the program this year! In its first year, the students have collected and donated hundreds of books, puzzles, articles of clothing, and shoes! They told us that the children at local schools receiving the donations are always lit up with joy when they’re delivered!

Before leaving for the day, the boys enjoyed playing in Walden’s outdoor classroom and checked out the student-kept garden. The outdoor classroom, which lies parallel with the heavily shaded courtyard lunch area (and looked like it was straight out of a storybook), is full of hammocks, zip lines, balancing areas, and a tire swing!

If you’re considering a part-time program for your homeschooling family, I encourage you to visit Walden Community School for a free tour!

By Stepanhie Wentwroth for OrlandoMomsBlog