Nature Rich Initiative: Learn. Worship. Play. pt. 1

Nature Rich Initiative at Zeeland Christian School

Learn. Worship. Play. pt. 1 of 3

Mr. Commeret’s 4th-graders at IDA Design in Zeeland, MI

In an age of electronics and screens, there is a movement toward integrating nature back into the classroom. Zeeland Christian School (ZCS) is taking the initiative to enhance students educational experience without the use of a screen through the Nature Rich Outdoor Space Project. The project is an interactive, nature-rich outdoor space built onto the current playground area and other green spaces on the property. It will be a collaboration of nearly two hundred ZCS students and seven design studios (IDA Design, Tiger Studio, GMB Architecture, DISHER, Haworth, and Gentex) from across West Michigan. The result of this collaboration will be an area where students learn, worship, and play. This area will serve over one thousand students and will incorporate all five senses, motor skills, and a meaningful interaction with nature for all ages.

4th-graders learn design thinking at GMB Architecture in Holland, MI.

The outdoor space will help students learn beyond a screen and enable them to have meaningful, hands-on interactions with nature as a part of their everyday education. To create a space that the school will enjoy, students are collaborating in two languages as part of the design process.  In both English and Spanish, the students are led by design leaders and their teachers to create an inclusive space every child can enjoy. Over the past four weeks, fourth and sixth-grade classrooms have been integrated into the development by visiting local design studios to gain an understanding of the skills needed to create this design.  Through experiencing a rigorous and creative process, both teachers and students alike are developing new competencies as innovators and designers.

Through collaboration, students are discovering how to be leaders and have confidence in their own creativity. Karyl Morin, Director of Learning Innovations at ZCS, says she has seen students who don’t typically show leadership step into this creative process with great engagement and creativity. “Zeeland Christian wants to nurture innovators – students grow tremendously and exercise new skills when they face the unknown,” said Morin.

She offers insight into the success of the project thus far, stating that it happens day-by-day as students become more engaged and excited about their ideas through learning alongside local design leaders in the classroom. Teachers are also facilitating the students in developing solutions along with guiding them in their design learning journey.

Providing students an opportunity to immerse themselves in this outdoor space is an important step in growing their knowledge. By creating this space, students of all ages and abilities will have an enhanced learning, worship, and play experience throughout every season of the year. Along with the ability to interact with nature, the project will serve as a showcase of collaboration between students and leaders in the West Michigan community. This will exhibit the extraordinary and generous efforts of a community that comes together to aid in making simple ideas into a reality; a reality that will last students for years to come.

6th-graders practice design thinking at DISHER in Zeeland, MI.

Zeeland Christian School is a “Threeschool” – 8th-grade school where we Love God, Love Kids, and Love Learning. Along with our English program, we offer Spanish and Mandarin Immersion through 8th-grade. We are home to the oldest Inclusion program in the United States and continue to be a leader in innovative learning in West Michigan. Visit to learn more.

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