Kindergarten teacher brings her love of the outdoors inside her classroom
Wendy Peppersack is native Idahoan and an avid outdoors woman. She loves archery, hunting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, camping and landscape photography. It’s no surprise that her love for the outdoors makes its way inside her classroom.
“I think it is so important for children to connect with nature, especially these days where more and more people are spending time on devices rather than outside,” explains Peppersack.
Peppersack is a full-day kindergarten teacher of 20 busy kids at Monroe Elementary in southwest Boise. She uses Arbor Day (celebrated in Idaho and nationally on the last Friday in April) as a way to connect her students with trees and nature in some very inspiring ways.
Peppersack leaves no branch unturned during the week building up to Arbor Day.
“I do a big tree unit – talking about what trees provide, what forests do for us, different things trees give us,” explains Peppersack. “We go out and explore trees. We cut products out of a magazine that come from trees and glue it on a big giant tree in our classroom. We talk about how trees are a habitat for animals and make bird nests.”
All the activities build up to the big day – Arbor Day – when Peppersack hosts a Tree Festival.
“Each kiddo gets an official pass to our festival,” says Peppersack who creates stations in her classroom for completing different activities that incorporate trees such as bark rubbing, a tree book to color, an exploration station with different tree objects (pine cones, leaves, bark, etc.) and a tree making station.”
The crowning activity? A special tree cupcake.
The kids eat it up.
“They LOVE the Arbor Day festival.” says Peppersack. “It’s something I look forward to and the kids always have a great time and learn to appreciate nature around them.”
The lessons are meant to provide an appreciation for trees and the environment but Peppersack also says she wants her students to understand that it doesn’t cost money to get outside and appreciate nature.
“Nature has so many benefits physically and mentally, and we can learn from being outside,” says Peppersack. “I show them that we get so much from trees and we really couldn’t live without them! That’s why we need to be responsible and take care of our forests and wilderness.”
Peppersack has advice for teachers on how to infuse classrooms with nature.
“I would encourage teachers to take Project Learning Tree classes but to also be invested and believe in what they’re teaching,” says Peppersack. “There are a lot of great resources and activities in the PLT books/online, and also the Arbor Day Foundation site. Mostly I would just tell them how much they learn and how hands-on, fun and engaging this unit is. Getting kids excited about the outside world when they’re young will instill a love for nature for years to come.”