Outdoor Education


At the Preschool, the outdoors is used as an extension of the classroom.  Through activities such as nature walks, observations of the seasons, and child-initiated investigations about plants and animals, we seek to inspire children’s natural propensity toward learning about their world.  We are committed to providing a natural playground for our students, to allow for more open-ended outdoor play experiences and encourage a sense of wonder about and appreciation for for nature and its creatures.

Lower School/Middle School
St. Francis School recognizes that a student’s education must encompass and embrace the natural world outside of the classroom. In order to make good on our mission, we recognize the central role outdoor education must play in a child’s total education.

The outdoor curriculum is designed to provide students with experiences that will enrich their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth while empowering them to become responsible citizens. Our ability to meet this mission begins by simply stepping outside of our school walls into nature. The Goshen Campus, situated on 64 acres of beautiful rolling fields, affords all of our (PS – 8th) students with ample opportunities to explore and observe the constantly changing seasons present in nature. From chasing butterflies to observing migrating geese during recess to noting and recording plant growth during a science class, the value of simply experiencing the outdoors cannot be overstated. Additionally, our school-wide garden,  greenhouse and unique nature preserve give students another opportunity to experience all that nature has to offer. By actually participating in the planning, measuring, soil preparation, mulching, and composting, students gain a first-hand knowledge of the natural world and how it impacts them on a daily basis.

 In other instances, we venture off campus to immerse ourselves in experiences that allow students to begin developing a deeper understanding of their relationship to the natural world. As Wendell Berry writes, “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go first without sight, and find the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”

7th Graders during Spring 2014 trip to Mammoth Cave

7th Graders during Spring 2014 trip to Mammoth Cave

Our 5th graders, for example, take a weeklong trip to Pine Mountain in the far eastern reaches of Kentucky where they study and explore Appalachia. The 6th grade travels to the Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest and spends several days and nights learning about the spectacular geography in this region. During 7th grade, our students travel to Mammoth Cave National Park where they camp above ground while exploring the caves below ground. Finally, the capstone outdoor experience for a St. Francis student is the 8th grade backpacking trip to the Big South Fork (BSF) National Recreation Area. The BSF experience opens all our students to the unknown and offers them an opportunity to rise above the challenges presented by living in the woods for a week. By stripping away the modern comforts of our lives and literally embracing the ups and downs of the trail, our students come to a realization about what is really important to them in leading happy, healthy lives.

8th graders' Spring 2014 Big South Fork trip.

8th graders’ Spring 2014 Big South Fork trip.

Our outdoor program mission is to conduct a safe and structured educational experience designed to inspire self-esteem, self-reliance, concern for others, and care for the environment. These experiences are intentionally designed to allow students the opportunity to meet challenges and move beyond self-imposed limitations through responsible risk taking and hands-on involvement.

High School
At the High School’s urban Downtown Campus, the Outdoor Activities Club continues the tradition with canoeing and hiking trips (open to all students) several times per year.  We also open senior year with a whitewater rafting adventure for the whole class, spending time together on the rapids and over the campfire later.

Canoeing at Elkhorn Creek this spring.

Canoeing at Elkhorn Creek this spring.