Student leadership and hard work create yet another way to connect to the natural environment at Hyla.
By careful design, students at Hyla get a burst of fresh air between every single class: they don’t walk through hallways, but rather along outside porches that connect classrooms. On any given day you can find Hyla students outside during class time as well – writing for English class, building something for science class, digging in an archaeological pit for history, or running for PE. During break and lunch times, you will see students in trees, in the Gaga pit, on the cargo net, and on benches all around campus. Love for the outdoors is a big part of Hyla.
During the last elective cycle, one group of students worked with teacher David Maron to better connect students to one of the best outdoor features of our campus: the woods that surround our 13-acre campus. Thanks to student initiative, a good plan, and hard work, there is now a new trail through the woods that circles around the upper field and connects down the edge of the sport court. Simply put, “kids want to be in the woods,” said David, who sees the new trail as yet another way to access the natural environment. “The Cargo Net already gets kids up into the trees and this trail is another access point.”
David also hears students talk about “the sense of freedom they get being outside. When they arrive at Hyla, they talk about the new freedoms they feel. Some of that has to do with going from a single class to a day with multiple classes and teachers, but a big part of it is the space of the school and it what it allows kids to do.” David believes that being outside offers students a “sense of relaxation” during their day. “There is an open-ness to the outdoors that takes away any claustrophobia they might feel, academically or socially. There is freedom in open physical space.”
The process behind the trail speaks to another need that is also important for this age: leadership, ownership, and the room to influence their environment. The trail is the direct result of the 8th graders’ decision to focus their final year at Hyla on three goals: fun, community, and legacy. During weekly class meetings, each group identified a project to bring their goal to life, and this trail project emerged from the “community” group. They wanted to engage students from other grades and decided that an elective would be a great way to do that. They defined the project and wrote the elective description, encouraging others to join. Twelve students in all three grades were in the elective that cleared and smoothed the trail. Their work has inspired a second trail elective that will create a new trail along the edge of the back field.
The new trails will inspire deeper connection into the woods – perhaps during the native plant study, or a human relations activity. From art class to electives, the trails offer yet another way to connect students to their environment. Thank you to David, to the 8th grade class, to the “community” group, and to the entire elective!