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May 30, 2020
by: Janet Weyandt

Wilderness Wednesday takes learning into the great outdoors

In the beginning, Wilderness Wednesday at Etude was simply a way for teacher Ali McKeone to get herself and her first graders outside and enjoy a little fresh air. 

It wasn’t a regular occurrence; the lifelong nature lover simply wanted to share her excitement about being outside with her kids.

Little by little, the idea grew, eventually aided by the participation of kindergarten teacher Brittany Hattabaugh, until Wilderness Wednesday became a regular outing that introduced their students to the freedom of being outside. 

The teachers found ways to incorporate the natural world into lessons that corresponded to what they did in class, and discovered new ways to connect with their students. 

Starting with the 2020-21 school year, Wilderness Wednesday will be expanded to all of K-1 at Etude.

To make that possible, McKeone and Hattabaugh put together a document laying out objectives for time spent outside, the academic standards the proposed lessons address, and a long list of additional resources on outdoor activities. 

McKeone, who is an avid hiker and camper, is a certified Forest School Leader Level 3, which means she’s qualified to run a preschool based entirely in nature. Until she fulfills that bucket list item, she is sharing her expertise with Etude students and fellow teachers. 

Hattabaugh jokingly says she got “sucked in” to the outdoor teaching concept a couple of years ago, when she saw the transformation of her otherwise energetic, sometimes rowdy students into eager outdoor learners. 

  “I had a bit of a challenging class, and when they went out into the woods it was a totally different class in the best way possible,” she said. 

One student summed it up this way, she recalled: “My soul is so happy when we come out here.”

Almost any lesson can be taught outside, and some subjects lend themselves easily to outside learning. That includes math: counting the holes in leaves students find, collecting sticks and building with them or putting them in order of size and finding shapes that occur in nature.  

The kids also learn to use hand tools, including a crosscut saw. They’re coached on how to conduct themselves safely and then allowed to explore, experiment and help one another – always following safety guidelines. 

“There is risky play involved,” McKeone said. “We do safety talks, we do training, we’re very careful about it. Students know they can lose the privilege. It pushes them, especially the quiet ones, further than we could.” 

Students have reported back that with their new proficiency they’re being allowed to help parents with little projects at home, and both teachers have seen huge improvements in self-confidence in maturity they can tie directly to Wilderness Wednesday. 

Since schools have been closed, McKeone and Hattabaugh have continued Wilderness Wednesday via distance teaching, though in a more relaxed way. Using emails, texts, Facebook, and the distance learning platform Seesaw, they’re providing parents with ideas for places to go and activities to do there. One example is devising a scavenger hunt tied to that day’s unit.

“We’re still providing activities for the kids, doing videos, making connections to the curriculum where they can go outside,” McKeone said. 

Though it started out as a novel way to help kids improve their motor skills and build relationships with their peers, Wilderness Wednesday has turned into the sort of unique learning experience that fits in perfectly with the rest of Etude’s philosophy. 

“What’s great about Etude is it pushes kids out of their comfort zone in the best way possible,” Hattabaugh said. “Outdoors is another one of those things. It’s another way to get the kids out of their comfort zone while having great learning opportunities.” 


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April 22, 2020
by: Janet Weyandt

Teachers bring new ‘Mindset’ to math class after workshop

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If there’s one thing that’s become more important than ever in education over the last month, it’s flexibility. Teachers have initiated online learning on the fly, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and students and parents have risen to the challenge.

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September 3, 2019
by: Ted Hamm

First Day of School

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IMG 2332 2 This is my view of the first day of school. Quiet hallways, empty classrooms; not a teacher or student in sight. But, wait! It is the first day of school! The first day and two weeks are an important part of Étude. We use it to intentionally establish our community and culture for the school year. Today is all about culture, building a safe culture.

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March 9, 2019
by: Ted Hamm

Sheboygan Makerspace

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Image result for city of sheboygan

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September 11, 2018
by: Ted Hamm

National Arts Education Week: A Look at Dance

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Our school is fortunate to be one of the only schools in the area that offers dance as a content area taught during the normal school day. We teach dance Kindergarten through grade 12 and use dance/movement as an art form that used to communicate ideas, as well as, a tool for calming students through our yoga and Movement and Learning work. As people become more sedentary in general, it is important that we find ways throughout a students’ school career to remind them of the powerful impact of movement.

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September 10, 2018
by: Ted Hamm

National Arts in Education Week: The Arts at Étude

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As I write this blog, I am surrounded by the sounds of students creating music, the sight of students creating their own dances, and drama students working through their own scripts and improv pieces. At first look, it is a bit chaotic, but after further observation, it is productive chaos. Each student is engaged in doing something; not tacitly learning, but involved in thoughtful dialogue with other students and teachers. The arts inherently do this. The arts engage a child in a holistic approach to learning unlike other subjects. This is why the arts are core to what we do at the schools of the Étude Group. As we kick off National Arts Education Week[https://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/images/2015/by_program/networks-and-councils/arts_education_network/BILLS-111hconres275enr.pdf] I want to use this week to share with you the transformative impact the arts have played within our schools.

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August 1, 2018
by: Ted Hamm, Director

Revised Daily Schedule at Étude Middle & High School

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Dear Étude Middle and High School Families:

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June 21, 2018
by: Ted Hamm

Student Engagement & Academic Growth at Étude Elementary

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One cardinal rule we live by in the schools of the Étude Group is Engagement Over Compliance. Engagement a result of our investment in creating inclusive school culture, creating relevant curriculum, and building solid relationships with kids. Compliance, on the other hand, requires kids to follow the rules of others without question or voice. We strive for engagement, and where some compliance is required for schools to function properly, our students participate in developing the rules.

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March 20, 2018
by: Susan Griffiths

ReBlog:Why Kids Need to Move, Touch, and Experience to Learn

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February 28, 2018

Jacob Olmedo Residency | Winter 2018

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