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  • Inside Worldmind School, Denver’s First K–5 Outdoor Classroom

    Kids are nurtured by and in nature at City Park–based Worldmind School, which saw its enrollment double this past fall.

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    When people hear about Worldmind School, they often go straight to the elements: What do you do in the winter? “I’m like, We’re outside,” says Worldmind founder Megan Patterson. A stint teaching in an Alaska Native village helped her realize that with the right gear, kids can—and gladly will—spend hours in nature’s classroom, even when temps drop into the teens. Worldmind’s outdoor education program, which expanded from preschool and kindergarten to include grades one through five this past fall, aims to prove why that’s a good thing for growing bodies and minds. After packing up at their home base, a mansion on Williams Street, the 32 K–5 children (annual tuition: $15,500) bike a half-mile in groups to City Park. There, Worldmind’s four teachers might ask students, who have tablets for research and to record work, to draw seeds they collect or make graphs documenting how many people they see running versus playing tennis. “Parents say they can’t believe the increase in confidence, self-esteem, and coordination,” Patterson says. But the fact that enrollment doubled when Denver Public Schools announced it was going remote may have had more to do with parents’ concerns about physical health. COVID-19 is known to be much less transmittable in open-air settings, and if this year is like the last, that’s where Worldmind’s kids will be: In 2019-’20, they only spent two full days indoors.

    The Year That Changed Everything

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