Every Tuesday morning, preschoolers become wilderness explorers at Peterborough’s Edward MacDowell Lake.

Since September, the tots have been exploring trails and learning about wildlife with the Robin’s Nest Nature Preschool. The school opened six years ago and has often gone on field trips to the lake, said director Rosalind Hanchett, but this is the first year the school’s 4- and 5-year-olds have taken a weekly outing there.

So far, they’ve learned to identify mushrooms, collected rainwater to learn about measurements and created “ephemeral art” — artwork that disappears as nature does. Hanchett said the school tries to incorporate several different subjects into each lesson, from learning about literature through writing poetry to using nature to create a map of the dam.

“Really, it’s a play-based program where they get to explore and be independent and really lead our curriculum, which has been the most fun thing,” Hanchett said. “Like someone will all of a sudden find this really cool beetle, and then we’ll take our field guides out and be able to do a whole lesson about those.”

From her perspective, it’s important for young children to learn through nature so that they can begin building a positive relationship with their surroundings.

“A big one is, just feeling that connection and then in turn they will want to be taking care of this earth someday, which is really needed now,” she said. “So, that was a big part of it, teaching them to leave no trace when they’re out, and do what they can to take care of all the animals that we see.”

Hanchett’s hope is that public schools in the Monadnock Region will begin to place more emphasis on outdoor education, and said her program is an example of how traditional subjects can be taught in the outdoors, especially with younger students.

“You can really learn everything you could inside outside, but just in a more whole-child manner,” she said.

A river’s


Students at Jaffrey Grade School have been working with Jaime Hutchinson, a teacher and naturalist at the Harris Center for Conservation Education, to study the Contoocook River.

The students studied topographic maps to trace the path of the river and learned about historic floods in 1936 and 1938 through old photographs and newspaper articles, with the help of the Jaffrey Historical Society. They also visited the sites in downtown Jaffrey depicted in the photographs.



In preparation for Thanksgiving, 4th-grade students at Marlborough Elementary School have been collecting food donations for children in need. In all, the students collected 12 boxes of food — about 1,000 items, or 500 pounds of food — to donate to the Kidz Cupboard, a program through the Federated Church of Marlborough that provides food packages for children over weekends and school vacations.

Robotics team advances

The South Meadow School Robotics Team will compete at the N.H. FIRST LEGO League Championship Tournament in Windham on Sunday, Dec. 2. The team moved on to the state competition after participating in a regional competition at Hollis Brookline High School Nov. 17.

Using science, technology, engineering and math concepts, the students have been working together to design, build and program a Lego Mindstorms Robot. The robot is then put to the test during the competition, where it must complete tasks on a themed table-top playing field. Throughout the process, students hone their critical thinking, teamwork and presentation skills.

Fifty-two teams will compete at the state competition.

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or mmcintyre@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter