Is a bird interested in the sky?
In modern society, the way we perceive the environment (as though it’s something you choose, or not, to have an interest in) is what can cause a disconnect between young people and nature. Situated in the heart of the Alps, here at Leysin American School in Switzerland, we strive to lessen this gap between our students and their environment and change how we think about the world around us—from an independent entity to something that is inextricably connected to us.
We live in a symbiotic relationship with nature and the environment. Teaching students how to enjoy and feel connected to nature is something we encourage at LAS through unique curriculums and varied outdoor programs that encompass experiential learning. At LAS, we believe in the importance of experiential learning as a gateway to unlocking deeper levels of understanding and knowledge, and we do this through organizing a variety of cultural trips, conducting hands-on classroom activities, and bringing student learning to the outdoors. According to multiple studies, learning in nature can increase student engagement and interest, lower stress levels, and benefit mental health. And what better way to do this than by taking full advantage of our beautiful Alpine environment and learning about our place within it?
Winter sports are a favorite in our community, as they allow everyone to enjoy the mountains in a unique and thrilling way. In the past, we have combined academic and outdoor education by conducting lessons, such as physics, on the mountainside. This engages students and allows them to see the practical applications of their studies in activities they love. In addition, taking learning like this into the outdoors further emphasizes our symbiotic relationship with the earth and allows students to feel connected to their environment. Physics theories like motion or energy transfer came from observing nature, so why not teach it in this way, too?
Other winter outdoor activities include avalanche training, ice-climbing, and ski or snowboarding lessons, to name a few. These sessions teach students determination, resilience, and leadership and further connect them to the outdoors—something which many young people struggle to do in modern society. These outdoor pursuits engage students, teach them the vital skills needed for their outdoor adventures, and emphasize the importance of understanding nature and the environment around them.
In the summer months, students are given many other opportunities to engage with nature. Lots of our teaching takes place outdoors, where students can enjoy the Leysin Oxygéne des Alpes. In summer, students learn new skills such as hiking and mountain biking, all of which expose them to the beauty of their natural surroundings and teach them the importance of respecting nature. This is furthered by activities such as cleaning up litter, which teaches us all to care about the environment and see it as something which we are a part of rather than separate from.
The disconnection from nature that many people experience is something we are trying to combat at Leysin American School. Helped by our incredible surrounding environment and the myriad of outdoor opportunities we have available, we hope to change student perceptions of nature from something that one can choose to have an interest in into something that we are inextricably a part of. We came from this earth, so let’s engage with it.