AFS OUTSIDE (Outdoor Scholarship, Initiative, Discovery and Exploration)
is a school wide outdoor learning program designed to connect children in sustained and meaningful ways with the living world while fully realizing the enormous potential of our beautiful campus.
Compared to a generation ago, children today have dramatically fewer opportunities for unstructured, nature-based play. Veteran teachers and childhood development researchers agree that this kind of play is critical for healthy childhood development.
As students at AFS grow and mature, so too does their relationship with the outdoor world. Play evolves into exploration, research and discovery. By the time they reach Upper School, students are connected to and involved in a larger world of sustainable practice, citizen science and compelling research, both on and off campus.
THE REDBUD NATURE PLAYGROUND
The Redbud Nature Playground includes platforms for creating imaginative settings such as tree forts; areas for building with all sorts of natural materials, spaces for making art and music; and plenty of open areas for running, climbing and playing games. It is the first nature playground in a school in Pennsylvania to be accredited by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Since we opened this playground for our youngest students, schools from all over the country have sent their teachers to learn how we transformed a traditional playground into an inviting outdoor space that encourages learning, discovery and play in a natural setting.
THE HEADWATERS DISCOVERY PLAYGROUND
The Headwaters Discovery Playground is a cutting edge outdoor classroom and free play zone, built to meet the specific needs of our student and program. This playground is designed for students from elementary through their Middle School years. With a village climb, water and sand play, big science pulley and swings, a nature ramble and space for gathering for large and small groups the design combines the best of the traditional childhood experience with our expert knowledge of teaching core subject lessons outdoors. From science and math to art and music, this engaging space allows faculty to take it outside.
CONSERVING OUR CREEK
The AFS campus is home to the headwaters of the Jenkintown Creek, a natural setting for creek walks, stream water quality studies, tree and animal track identification, bird adaptations, wildlife habitat gardening and environmental art projects.
A recent addition to our campus is a new riparian buffer along the creek bed, installed through our partnership with the Tookany/Tacony Frankford (TTF) Watershed Partnership and a Delaware River Restoration Fund grant. Students, teachers and families played an active role in establishing and planting the buffer, which has become another highly utilized site on campus for outdoor exploration and education.
Following the installation of the buffer, the new rain garden sits across from the Headwaters Discovery Playground. Funded through a grant from the William Penn Foundation to our community partner, the Tookany Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, the rain garden improves the health of our creek and watershed, giving students even more opportunities to study birds, insects, and amphibians firsthand.
We are proud to partner with Villanova University the monitoring of our rain garden and stream. On campus weather and stream monitoring stations installed by Villanova allow students in our Upper School program to utilize real-time data for ongoing experiments and reporting about water quality and climate.
Villanova has also installed a flowmeter, located under Meetinghouse Road that measures depth, velocity and the flow of the stream. Within our rain garden Villanova has installed soil measure meters, a bubbler to measure infiltration rates, an autosampler to collect water samples, and pore water samplers.
The rooftop weather station installed by Villanova monitors temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind speed and wind direction, solar radiation, barometric pressure, heat index, and dew point. This data can provide information about storm duration and intensity. Along with the flowmeter, the data helps us monitor the inflow to and outflow from our creek headwaters.
Want to know what the weather is like on campus? Check out our live weather feed sponsored by Villanova University!
FROM CAMPUS TO ARBORETUM
Through a network of partnerships, AFS has officially turned our campus into an arboretum. We are fortunate to have a diverse canopy of trees, which adds up to a great habitat, a great learning tool and a great resource for the community.
Nine AFS faculty members are fully trained Tree Tenders through our partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and our students in Lower and Middle school actively engage in inventorying and identifying our tree stock and caring for trees as part of the curriculum.With guidance from PHS and Meadowbrook Farm, we have inventoried over 300 trees on campus and are working with a broad partnership of friends, neighbors, teachers and students to develop a tree tour to showcase and share our incredible wealth of trees.
Visit the Abington Friends School Arboretum website.