Outdoor Play and Learning

Our mission at James River Day School is to cherish children & challenge them to become scholars, leaders, and citizens for the 21st century in a community of academic excellence. For our students to reach their full potential, we know they need to be engaged in all aspects of their school lives. Schools such as ours, which incorporate outdoor education into their curriculum, have students who are not only high achievers but are also independent, creative, confident, curious, and empathetic. 

Research has repeatedly shown that exposure to nature benefits our mental, physical and spiritual health. When we spend time outdoors our blood pressure decreases, our attention increases, and our overall stress and mood improve. The benefits of time spent soaking up our natural world extends into education. And when students are actually educated outside, school performance improves, as evidenced by increased test scores, improved attitudes toward school, and high attendance rates. Several years ago, a visitor asked, “How do your students achieve at such a high level when they are outside so much?” The answer, of course, is that our students achieve at such a high level because they are outside so much!

Being in touch with nature should not be an opportunity but an inherent right. And yet, even in the face of overwhelming evidence in favor of being outdoors, we spend more time indoors now than in years past. Today’s students spend only half as much time outside as children did 20 years ago, and they spend between six and nine hours a day on their screens. As humans, we are designed to connect with nature. Our senses come alive when we are exposed to all our natural world has to offer. 

At James River, we incorporate outdoor time into our day--to learn, engage, and simply play--every day. We do this because we know that time spent in nature truly is the answer to “what’s best for each child.” 

This year, the Bird Bash is raising funds to extend and enhance our outdoor spaces. We want our campus facilities and equipment to support the kind of experiential learning and play that helps young minds and bodies prepare for a healthy and constantly curious way of life. Tomorrow night as we gather for our biennial Bird Bash, I hope to see you there!