A line of students filed out of the big metal door. You could hardly see our faces under our brightly colored raincoats. Boots squeaked and thudded. Rain pants rustled. Inside the door, the line was straight and organized, but as soon as we stepped outside, we were wild — children of the Earth.
Recess had begun.
A newly formed river of mud and rain in the woods. A slippery fallen tree acts as a bridge, or a castle, or a throne. Leaf crowns. Tiny rocks, twigs, and the sand pile make a tiny fortress. A moat is carved out of the dark brown mulch much to the chagrin of our teachers, and the rain quickly fills it in. Wet bark peeled off a dead tree, rocks, leaves, twigs, acorns, pine cones, a feather from home, and we built a fairy house. Capture the flag goes on in all weather. The wetness is an added challenge, an extra bit of fun. We liked to show off our grit.
We slipped and slid across the soaked playground. Our heels rubbed raw in our boots, but we didn’t care. Fingernails quickly filled with dirt and sand and wet bits of bark, but we didn’t care. Mud splashed in our faces and we wiped it away with muddier hands, but we didn’t care. Our fingers and noses were numb with the wet chill, but we didn’t care. Despite the “waterproof” rain gear we were wearing, we were soaked through, but we didn’t care.
We did care though, when the teachers began to call us inside. When the little bark castles had to be left for tomorrow — who knew if they would keep from collapsing without us watching over them? When the imaginary kingdom by the new river in the woods had to be abandoned for another day. When the capture the flag game had to end before anyone had scored. When the leaf crowns had to be taken off. Then we cared.
Up until two years ago, I attended a Montessori school. This meant I spent a lot of time outside. In elementary, we had recess every day, whether it was snowing or raining or sleeting. We had lessons out in the woods and took trips to the beaches and mountains. Unless the temperature was way below freezing or it was thundering and lightning, we were out in it.
Curiosity, love, and concern for the natural world has been a part of who I am from a very young age. Now that I am older, I read the biology textbooks, watch the powerpoints on ecology, take my dog for a walk after school every day, and I understand a little more of what is happening out there in the world. I get it. And I love getting it. Learning about life and nature gives me a sense of fulfillment that no other subject in school does. I compost and recycle at home. I am President of the Green Group at my high school, and I am happy to say that the school now recycles! When I’m out with my dog I'll pick up trash from the side of the road. I hike mountains with my dad, even in the snow. I love being outside.
Recess, but also every lesson and trip we took in the outdoors while I was in Montessori, was a very meaningful experience for me. It made me the person I am today. It instilled in me a curiosity and a passion that otherwise might not exist and for which I am very grateful. I’m seventeen years old now, but I will never stop playing outside. I will never stop loving the earth and I will never stop fighting for it. I will never stop asking questions and never stop wondering how the earth works. I will never stop — because of recess. Because of log kingdoms, leaf crowns, little sand fortresses, and muddy games of capture the flag.
-Alexandra Campbell, HMS '14