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Eye On Education: Outdoor Classes Help Students Become Active Learners

WESTWOOD (CBS) - A one of a kind pilot program for 11th graders from one Boston school is getting results for taking the classroom outdoors at the Intrepid Academy hosted by the Hale Reservation in Westwood. This program helps students become active and engaged learners.

Seeing kids hiking through the snowy woods isn't what most of us remember about high school. However, this school is using nature as a teaching tool. It started in January as the Intrepid Academy at Hale Reservation, 1,100 acres of nature's glory in Westwood. The program gets the students moving both their bodies and their brains.

Eye On Education
Students and their teacher, Seamus Foy, gather during an outdoor class. (WBZ-TV)

"Young people are less active, they're more attached to their phones, they're less attached to the natural world," says teacher Seamus Foy. "So how can we change their school experience by changing the environment in which school happens?"

There's still classroom time. The students are all 11th graders from Another Course to College, a public school in Boston. Each day they come to Hale Reservation and take their learning into the field.

"We're learning how everything on earth is connected," Alexa Elie, one of the students, said.

"In a classroom setting I get to watch it on a camera or on a TV, but here I get to see it with my own eyes. I get to experience it," Jadzeiyah Brown, another student, added.

Whether that's a lesson about the biosphere or the effect of temperature on a chemistry experiment.

Eye On Education
Teacher, Seamus Foy, brings his students to Intrepid Academy to become engaged in what they are learning. (WBZ-TV)

The partnership between the Boston Public Schools and Hale is key.

"It's looking at how our community is a classroom. How we can use all the resources that are in the greater Boston area to take education and make it really different for students," said Eric Arnold, the Executive Director of Hale Reservation.

Many of these city kids wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to experience this place.

"I didn't even know this place existed. I'm still getting used to calling this place Westwood," says 11th grader Brady Marshall.

"I'm more interested in the topic. I look forward to the next time I learn. I can't wait for the next class," Andrez Gonzalez, another student, said.

And there is evidence that the physical exertion is more than just good exercise. It can benefit the brain, elevate mood and help the learning process. Just one Boston school is participating this year. Next year they hope to add two more.

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