Starting Monday, being outdoors during school hours won't be limited to recess for students at an independent school in Lunenburg County that's piloting a new program. 

Lunenburg County Independent School is taking the classroom into the woods one afternoon a week for Open Air Class.

"I expect the students to gain comfort and enjoyment outdoors, confidence, leadership skills, an increased understanding of natural systems and how humans are part of nature," said Open Air Learning founder Amanda Bostlund.

"And to experience improved cooperation and communication, observation and inquisitiveness." 

From bird language to orienteering

Open Air Learning, which is based on the South Shore, offers after-school and kindergarten-age programs elsewhere in Nova Scotia, but Bostlund said incorporating "a regular and consistent outdoor component" into school curriculum has real potential. 

The class will venture into the woods behind the Mahone Bay school, which opened last year with a combined class of Grade 8 and 9 students.

"We will focus on activities that align with students's emerging interests during our exploration of the forest," Bostlund said.

Outdoor skills such as basic navigation, observation of trees, plants, animal tracks, youth-led games, shelter-building, forest art, bird language and journaling will be among those taught. 

"A lot of interesting experiences can be had without going far off the beaten track," Bostlund said. 

Although it's just a small group of students who will get the chance to attend Open Air Class, Bostlund said it's an important age group. Appreciating the environment and gaining related skills are important as children transition into adulthood, she said.

"Socially, there is a lot of benefit to group experiences within nature; relating to others and a sense of belonging is of course very important to young teenagers."