New school in Unionville aims to get kids off of chairs and screens and out into the world

Unionville Outdoor School.jpg
Posted at 6:35 PM, Jul 05, 2024

HELENA — A brand new school in Unionville is getting ready to open up, providing hands-on education for students who might not learn in the traditional way.

“There’s a need all over the U.S. for schools that let kids move more, that let them be outside more, and that let them learn in a way that they feel challenged and yet makes learning fun,” says Lauren Rivers, Lead Teacher and Outdoor Exploration Director.

The school will provide an alternative learning style for kids in the Helena area that will work to bring learning outside, allowing kids to move, create, and learn independently in Montana’s backyard, says Rivers.

“Well, I have two boys. I have 6-year-old twin boys, and they never really sit still. They're always moving, whether it's in our house, running around, or building forts in the backyard. And I just feel like it is not their natural state to be sitting at a desk or at a table for hours at a time,” says Rivers.

A typical day will consist of traditional topics such as math, science, and English, but with a highlighted focus on outdoor topics, such as hiking safety, fort building, bug identification, fungi and plant identification, and weaving.

Now, the kids won’t just be outdoors all the time, especially on those below-zero days during the winter.

“Outdoor school means our focus is outdoors and as much as possible we're outside doing our learning and exploring. But we have a beautiful school building and it's set up for kids to learn indoors, as well,” says Rivers.

The school plans to open this Fall for year-round teaching. They will teach K-5 and have the capacity for 16 children. This small group of parents and educators is searching for one more teacher to join the school. They also plan to have a scholarship system where parents can contribute volunteer hours to reduce tuition costs.

“It will become more important as time goes on for kids to be outside more and not on screens and not indoors. And I'm just excited to provide that for kids in this community,” says Rivers.