Student Well-Being Video

Where These Urban Students Get To Learn About (and in) the Outdoors

By Sam Mallon — September 5, 2023 4:17
Baltimore City School students find worms in the soil while exploring the woods and looking for decomposers during a scavenger hunt at Great Kids Farm and Forest Camp on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Catonsville, MD.

Nestled between a nondescript section of route 40 and the Patapsco River in Catonsville, Md., lies a 33-acre plot of land owned by Baltimore City Public Schools. Called the Great Kids Farm, the land serves as an outdoor classroom for students in the urban district.

Students visit the farm during the school year for outdoor learning programs. But come summer, rising 3rd through 5th graders have the opportunity to spend up to two weeks at the farm, learning from high school-age counselors as part of the district-run summer camp.

“Baltimore City Schools is the only large urban school district in the country with its own outdoor farm center,” said Camp Director and Farm-to-School Specialist Laura Menyuk. “We want to stop being the best-kept secret of Baltimore City Schools.”

The aim of the outdoor program is to facilitate social-emotional learning and empower students through their understanding of the food systems and natural world, an aspect of education that is often inaccessible in urban environments. Studies highlight many benefits of learning in the outdoors, including the mental and physical health of students, their engagement with the community, and their overall academic achievement.

The four-day camp runs for four weeks during the summer. As the school year resumes, those same educators will visit classrooms to provide students with hands-on experiences that connect curricular concepts with the world around them.

Baltimore City School students harvest cucumbers to make pickles with during a week at Great Kids Farm and Forest Camp on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Catonsville, MD.

Sam Mallon is a video producer for Education Week.

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