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Learning Beyond the Classroom

When students are given opportunities to walk in the woods, cultivate plants on a farm, jump in leaves, canoe down rivers, and sleep in tents, they understand, from an early age, that learning happens everywhere. Exploring the natural world is a critical part of an NGFS education and not only because it enhances our academic work. There are inherent challenges outdoors and it is not always predictable; these experiences build resiliency, adaptability, collaborative skills, and memories. 

From 2022-23 spring trip letter to 5th and 6th grade families:

All travel comes with unexpected events, from rain to cancellations to food that might not be your favorite. Now imagine traveling with 30 kids! One of the things that we stress as we start talking about our trip is flexibility and a growth mindset. Sometimes unplanned events make for the greatest adventures and the best stories. Maybe when you try that food you always assumed you hated, you discover that you love it. There may be times on the trip when students feel like they are a little outside their comfort zone. This is how we continue to grow! On trips, it isn’t the places that we go so much as the people we are with and our attitude that make the memories.


Get Outside

AT NGFS, we believe that all students need time to play and recharge.

Daily outdoor breaks are part of the schedule for Preschool-12th grade. We know the importance of giving children space to create, negotiate, pretend, and engage in imaginative play. 

Since our early beginnings, NGFS has been committed to the adventure, joy, and learning that travel can bring. Our students are challenged to get outside, get involved, and get moving. We take day trips, camping trips, city trips, and international trips. We immerse our students in new places and situations and delight as they discover, collaborate, question, hypothesize, and problem solve in ways they never could in class.

Class Trips

Class trips at NGFS are no ordinary field trip. Beginning in third grade, students take fall and spring overnight trips that immerse them in a world outside their comfort zones. Children are challenged to apply life skills in a variety of situations: learning how to set up a tent, camping in the woods, rock climbing, hiking, comforting a homesick classmate, navigating a ropes course, and most of all, how to interact with their teachers and peers in a new and challenging environment. It is through these experiences that students become aware of their obligations as responsible local and global citizens.

From tubing in the Ichetucknee Spring to civil rights history brought to life in Birmingham; from viewing a Shakespearean play to spending the night in the Tennessee Aquarium; from expanding on the study of elections in Washington, D.C to standing at the Ohio River enslaved people had to cross to freedom, the trips are as varied as the curriculum they enhance. It is through this experiential learning that students are able to feel, touch, and have real first-hand connections with what they’ve learned about and read.

Students go on class trips each year until graduation and hail these trips as hallmarks of their NGFS experience. Alumni remark that they were “life-changing”. New Garden’s trip program is truly one of a kind and is a unique differentiator. 

Appreciation for the Environment

Outdoor education has been part of the New Garden Friends School program since its founding in 1971. Over the years the School has continued to emphasize children’s relationship with the environment, developing an appreciation for it as well as the discovery of it. 


We seek to be good stewards of the environment by using the resources of the Earth responsibly. We strive to educate ourselves about the local and global impacts of personal and institutional choices in order to encourage environmental best practices. Some of the ways we do this include:

  • Composting on the Guilford Campus
  • Campus recycling of paper, plastic, and glass
  • Styrofoam is rinsed, collected, and recycled
  • Plastic bag collection for proper recycling
  • Water barrels on campus
  • The art department collects used markers to be sent in to be recycled
  • Reusable dishes for school events
  • Garden plots are maintained by students and staff on both campuses
  • Our chickens provide eggs for class trips and service learning (i.e. "cooking for the community").
  • On-going efforts to be good stewards through reducing our environmental footprint, reusing current resources, and recycling what we can.

Outdoor Classroom

While the out-of-doors has always been utilized at New Garden Friends School to enhance learning, in 2019, a beautiful brick patio and benches were installed to provide an area for the community to gather outdoors. The patio is located right in the middle of campus for Preschool and Lower School. 

Additionally, as neighbors to Guilford College we have access to their extensive property including 200 acres of wooded area. Classes often take nature walks in the woods, navigate the trails, plant in the garden, and PE makes use of the frisbee golf course in the woods. Behind the Lower School buildings sits a forest outdoor classroom with benches, a balance platform, and space to come together in a natural setting. 

With these many outdoor spaces we are able to seamlessly take learning outside. 

Head of Lower School Carolyn Howes shares, “It is valuable for children to have opportunities to spend time in nature, from 3-year-olds hiking in the woods to 6th graders setting up tents and camping for eight days. It is wonderful to see the joy on a child's face as they stand in a meadow, collecting leaves as they fall from a tree, or as they discover a frog hidden behind a rock at the edge of the woods.”