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For over 15 years, Buffalo Cove has partnered with Two Rivers Community School in Boone, NC to integrate outdoor education into the curriculum from Kindergarten through 8th grade in an intentionally designed progression.  Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes spend one day in the field focused on activities that relate to classroom topics such as stream ecology or life on the frontier.

Starting in 3rd grade classes, take an overnight trip to Buffalo Cove, and in the later grades, this is extended into two three-day experiences each year.  These expeditions are carefully planned with the teacher to support academic goals, personal and group development, and the ELOB Design Principles (see below). 

The capstone experience for the 8th grade class is a three-day backpacking  or canoeing trip in a nearby wilderness area.  This provides a special opportunity for students to use the skills and concepts they have learned previously at Buffalo Cove and TRCS.

campers and staff in canoes on a river
a circle of teachers holding hands

Buffalo Cove and the ELOB Design Principles:

  • Primacy of Self-Discovery:  At BC students may find themselves faced with a challenging hike or a problem-solving activity such as building a fire as a group.  These activities are designed to promote personal growth and provide an opportunity to meet challenges successfully.  Sometimes just being away from home for an overnight trip can lead to greater self-awareness and confidence.

  • Empathy and Caring, Diversity and Inclusion:  Each trip to BC is planned with the class’ specific needs in mind.  We include initiatives and group games, times for discussion, and activities that encourage students to embody these design principles and support one another.

  • The Natural World: Classes are outside at BC and often include elements of ecology, natural history, conservation, and nature observation.  For example, a class might go on a day hike and learn about wild edible plants and the ecosystem’s energy cycles, and then relate that to human’s energy needs. 

  • Solitude and Reflection:  Students have opportunities for quiet reflection time while at BC, often incorporated into a journaling or an art project.   

  • Service and Compassion:   While at BC everyone helps with chores after mealtimes to keep the community healthy and happy.  These chores include working in the garden, washing dishes, and cleaning the dining area.  Sometimes a class may choose to do a bigger community service project while at BC.

This may be the most satisfying, educational, and affirming school experience I have ever had. I am so in love with this place. I am so grateful to be able to be [in a place] that values this kind of experience for children: the lessons of the forest, of the garden, of the process. I never cease to be impressed with Nathan Roark and his staff. Their sensitivity to the needs of children in the moment, their ability to hone in on the nature of any issue that arises, and the breadth and depth of background knowledge they bring to the table is astounding. Nathan’s creativity and ingenuity in crafting lessons in a wilderness setting that perfectly complement and extend my lessons in the classroom is nothing short of genius. I believe this kind of experience offers profound benefits to children (and adults) on multiple levels.

- Kelly, Teacher at Two Rivers Community School

It’s an incredible experience that challenges every aspect of modern life.  It makes you look at the world in a different way!

- Grace, Student at Two Rivers Community School

I always look forward to our Buffalo Cove trips through MAP because they are invaluable group bonding experiences.  I always feel like I have learned new ways of connecting with my students that carry over into the classroom, making everyone feel safe and included. The Buffalo Cove staff work with us teachers to plan engaging and relevant activities that directly connect to our expeditions and units in school.  It is so powerful for students to see that what they learn in a classroom setting actually has significance in other 'real world' settings!

- Rachel, Teacher at Two Rivers Community School

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