Antioch Grad Filming Documentary about Chesterfield School’s Outdoor Learning

Children in Field Examining Bugs, photo courtesy of Chris Hardee

Chesterfield filmmaker and Antioch University alum Chris Hardee has been working on the short film, “Turning School Inside Out,” since the students came into school in September of 2018. Once complete, the 15-minute piece will show how educators at Chesterfield School create outdoor education initiatives for their students.

In March of 2017, the school acquired a 22-acre parcel of nearby land and devoted the natural space to support the school’s educational mission. Teachers quickly began to use the fields and forests for hands-on lessons about everything from food webs to animal tracking, to studies of Native American history.

“I think it’s been pretty substantial and amazing how quickly the teachers who may have not thought too much about teaching outdoors in the past have really embraced the fact that it’s there,” Hardee said.

Laura White, Antioch University alum and 5th-grade science teacher at Chesterfield, takes her students out for weekly 90-minute sessions to supplement their classroom learning. Other educators across all grade levels have started using the space as well for a convenient place to better engage their students with hands-on learning and exploration.

“What’s been really amazing with this new purchase of land is it’s now school property, so legally, we don’t need to go through the permission-slip process,” White said. “We can just go out when we want to.”

The school held an open house in June where families could explore the outdoor classroom and meet representatives from local New Hampshire outdoor education organizations like the Harris Center, the Caterpillar Lab, and Kroka Expeditions. The event provided community members an opportunity to see what the land will provide for students;  parents, teachers, and school board members have been collaborating to plan for the future.

Chesterfield School students building shelter

Educators in Chesterfield and at Antioch alike are excited for the exposure and possibilities the documentary will bring.

“A lot of the teachers here are doing more outdoor-based programming because they are experiencing what benefits it has for their kids, and they’re seeing that firsthand,” White said. “But now maybe, that benefit will be a bit bigger of a ripple effect if what we’re doing here can be shared elsewhere.”

The film is scheduled to be completed in the fall and Antioch faculty hope to use it as an educational and community engagement tool.

*This story was adapted from a story by Meg McIntyre in the Keene Sentinel.

Class of first grade children outdoors, Chesterfield School