At Chiaravalle, outdoor education takes place at every developmental level and adapts to the needs and interests of the students. Whether students are identifying the plants in the park, studying the layers of the atmosphere, researching root development, creating landforms at the beach or writing poetry in the garden …they are encouraged to develop an ecological identity and a sense of place.
Chiaravalle Middle School plans two weeks each year as part of the Erdkinder program, Maria Montessori's vision of adolescents connecting with the earth. As a Montessori Middle School in an urban environment, outdoor and environmental experience is vital. For one trip, students head to Ronora, a nature preserve in Watervliet, Michigan, featuring a secluded lake, abundant wildlife and over 400 acres to explore and enjoy. Students plan, shop, prepare, and clean-up for all the meals at Ronora. They are also expected to contribute to daily activities with games, talents, crafts, and lessons. Everyone has the challenge of exploring and building their independence, confidence and skill sets.
Upper Elementary students participate in the Mighty Acorns project, which involves (2-3) trips to the Wayside Woods Prairie each year. Students take a public transportation to Morton Grove to help restore a prairie site near Dempster and Lehigh. Each season brings different tasks: collecting rare seeds in Fall, cutting brush in Winter, and pulling invasive garlic mustard in Spring. Prior to the trips they learn about the amazing tallgrass prairie which blanketed Illinois in centuries past.
Lower Elementary classes also travel to the prairie. Each class works with a docent during their prairie trips in fall, winter, and spring.