Member Spotlight

Missouri ParkLAND Project

Brandi Cartwright, Head of School at Raintree School

Positioned to get every Missouri child to the wild lands of their local park, Raintree School launched the Missouri ParkLAND Project. The only forest school in Missouri, Raintree School created the state-wide initiative to support wild outdoor endeavors for formal and informal educators, parents, and playgroups. 
A natural hotspot for geodes, neighborhood parks filled with woodland, and home to nearly 90,000 acres of prairie, the beauty of Missouri is made possible by its ample wildlands. However, the majority of children in Missouri fail to explore the wild spaces of their communities.
Free opportunities for children to encounter natural spaces is a priority as nearly 1 in 4 children is poor in Missouri. The problem doesn't stop at home: With many Missouri schools struggling to meet state benchmarks while creating inspiring and challenging learning opportunities, teachers are joining the rest of the country in the race to boost test scores at the detriment of outdoor time.
Teachers and parents are not always sure how to navigate wild spaces and how encounters in nature can further standards-based academics. To support classroom demands while staying true to the tenants of forest school--such as inquiry-based learning and child-directed exploration, including principles of experiential education and place-based learning--children are invited to get off the playground of their local park and into the wildlands.
And as children find adventure in the rarely explored depths of their neighborhood park, they make a map of where they've been and what they've done. Then, they upload their map to the ParkLAND database for others to explore and try out.
As schools join the project, Raintree School will add the maps children have made to a Missouri parks database for local schools and playgroups to see evidence of students utilizing local parks to further learning while getting a dose of inspiration from the video, images, and stories populating each map.
From preschoolers to high school students, the maps tell the unique story of the parks of Missouri. Functional and beautiful, the maps children create connect them to the past, present, and future of the outdoor spaces in their community.
To ensure classroom mapping endeavors are successful, Raintree School has begun a pilot program for local educators. Lesson-planning workshops, park exploration mentorships with Raintree's forest school practitioners, and map-making firesides are provided for free for all schools upon joining the Missouri ParkLAND Project.
Through the Missouri ParkLAND Project, Missouri educators can see children in action in local parks while exploring a digital clearinghouse of wildland possibilities.
- - -
Raintree School is a private preschool and kindergarten in St. Louis, Missouri. The first forest school in the state, Raintree School enjoys a Reggio-inspired approach to learning that is grounded in place-based education and project-based learning. Raintree School prides itself as a place where children are engaged in mindfulness; where young citizens share a sense of common good, intellectual courage, and a love for all things wild.
For more information, contact:
Brandi Cartwright