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Jennifer Newberry & Ashley Morse

 

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Jennifer Newberry is not an ordinary educator from the Northeast United States. She models adventure, fun and learning through outdoor play with a balance of structured and unstructured time with her kindergarten students.

As a youth in urban playgrounds, Jennifer would find her adventures walking across the top of the monkey bars instead of the conventional swinging from the bars below or heading straight to the black diamond runs on her first day of skiing in the mountains of Arizona. She teaches her students to think outside the ”bars” during their school day. Jennifer is revered by her students and many precious memories, discoveries, and triumphs are encountered throughout their day with outdoor fun.

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Ashley Morse is a fifth-generation Vermont farmer, outdoor enthusiast, mother of two teenagers and has been teaching kindergarten for almost 20 years. Although she has a BS from Cornell University and a MEd from Johnson State College, Ashley can be best described as an avid life-long learner who proudly prioritizes her education above her schooling.

As a teacher Ashley goes above and beyond the core curriculum, believing that educating young children is really about fostering “ah-ha” moments, laughter, joy and relationships. She strives to provide a safe and inspiring place where children can reconnect with the farms and forests around them in a never-ending experiment of learning and discovery.

Jennifer and Ashley were inspired by the current cognitive science of Peter Gray, Richard Louvre and the work of Claire Warden and Erin Kenney to start an outdoor program and design an open-ended outdoor play space for their kindergarten program at the Marion Cross School in Norwich, Vermont. They are committed to bringing joy and wonder back into education through the experience of playing in nature.

Outdoor unstructured play, allows students to take risks, devise their own experiments, and learn to solve problems independently and fosters healthy social emotional development. Ashley and Jennifer have found that nature play fosters deeper relationships with their students, between peers, and with the natural world around them.

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