Outside of Four Walls

May 9, 2023

Green Chimneys’ Brewster and Clearpool campuses may be separated by 13 miles but one component that connects them is a thriving Outdoor Education program led by a truly dynamic educator. Michelle Vasiloff has a passion for the outdoors and this passion is infectious to those who participate in her program.

Michelle’s classes are full of discovery as she pushes students to be outside all 12 months of the year. A typical day will find Michelle and her students out in the woods tracking animal prints, birding, or playing games while hiding among the leaves. These activities combine classroom-based skills with exploration and observation for hands-on, experiential lessons that go well beyond four walls.

Maximizing the Outdoors for Learning & Exploration

When asked why she loves what she does, Michelle simply says, “I’d just rather be outside. In the moments when I can watch our students being kids, building forest shelters, or playing camouflage in ghillie suits (suits made to resemble foliage, snow or sand), I can see the genuine impact of the outdoors and it really puts a smile on my face.”

On days when weather is harsh, Michelle doesn’t skip a beat and students dive into classroom activities focused on national parks or how America’s indigenous people survived off the land. Nature-based education at Green Chimneys means incorporating all of our campus assets – from the farm & wildlife center at Brewster to the 350 acres of woodlands at Clearpool.

This programming enhances the school curriculum, especially at the Clearpool campus. “Michelle fully utilizes the forest setting, working alongside the teachers to amplify what’s being taught in the classroom,” says Clearpool House Administrator Amanda Gassner. “For many of our students, this is their first experience with the outdoors and learning about nature using a hands-on approach. With engaging educators like Michelle, the possibilities are endless!”