Hartford’s Community First School committed to outdoor learning, even before pandemic


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — We’re hearing all about the need for outdoor learning. But, for one class in Hartford, it’s already the norm.

“Today, we’ll actually take the pumpkins, carve them and then we’ll dig out the inside,” explained Executive Director Tim Goodwin, during a recent excursion. “Students love to touch things. Then, we’ll separate seeds in groups of six.”

It’s a creative way to teach math.

Students are also examining compost, looking for worms and making drawings with Mother Nature’s assistance.

“We’re making leaf people, which they love,” said teacher Marisha Watts.

This is how we’ll find the group at least three times a week, in places like Keney Park.

“We thought, ‘Let’s use the assets in the community that the families may or may not know of to engage the students,'” explained Goodwin.

Otherwise, the 11 students — ages 5 and 6 — are in the classroom at Community First School, located in Hartford’s North End, a federally named “Promise Zone” with high poverty and unemployment rates.

Goodwin is an experienced educator and father of six.

“We continually hear about things like achievement gaps, which I don’t necessarily believe in. If you took a student and didn’t teach him to swim, and then you put him in the pool, what would you expect to happen? We feel that every child is unique and special and capable of greatness.”

This unique place, considered an anti-racist organization, depends on support from sponsors like Saint Francis Hospital.

“I come in and make breakfast for them, typically oatmeal, something that’s hearty, healthy,” said Watts, noting that’s one of three meals a day the kids receive.

Students are prepped to learn and thrive.

“We find animals,” said 6-year-old Zayden Brown during the recent outing. “Last time, my sister found a frog.”

“What I’m doing is the right thing and if you do the right thing, good things will happen as a result,” said Goodwin with feeling.

Tuition is $40 a month. School runs until 3:45 p.m. each day. After school enrichment is available.

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