Meet Heather Taylor
Outside School’s inaugural year is 2019. I’ve been a formal educator since 2002, teaching solely outside since 2007. Here’s my story:
I’ve lived in Northern California my entire life and spent the bulk of my 1970s childhood outdoors playing freely in the neighborhood and going camping with my family. As a teen we lived in a state park, where I rode my BMX bike and hiked with my dog on the weekdays when visitation was low, and spent a ton of time in the creek and walnut orchard behind our house. Biology was always my favorite subject and i always had a lot of support from my family in my curiosities and collections.
I attended City College of San Francisco, where I worked in the Biology Department and then transferred to UC Davis and volunteered in the herpetology lab. Upon graduation I worked for a time at UC Berkeley, preparing biology labs and working with animal care. The bureaucratic lifestyle was not for me…
My life mentor encouraged me over a period of years to become a teacher, and I finally did! I became a preschool teacher. I became the preschool’s Garden Teacher and thus began my career as an outdoor educator. I started Outside School originally as an after school program at local elementary schools before becoming a Forest School Teacher at another school. Here’s a link information about the prior rendition of Outside School:
I’ve written a book chapter, “Promoting Play in a School Garden and Using a Blog to Document Children's Nature Explorations,” in Daniel Meier and Stephanie Sisk-Hilton’s Nature Education with Young Children: Integrating Inquiry and Practice, and their second edition of this same book will have a new chapter to replace the old, “From Fear to Freedom: Risk and Learning in a Forest School.” The same chapter is also set to be published as an article in “Voices of Practitioners.” After teaching solely outdoors since 2007, it’s time to break free and open the school of my dreams, Outside School! It’s name signifies that it’s both outside of the normal realm of our local schools and entirely outdoors.
Our educational systems are great, but they’re not for everyone. I envision a place where children and their families who, for whatever reason, are uncomfortable with other programs that are available for their children’s education. It could be social or academic pressures. It could be a need to slow down and connect with our environment. It could be for a break or support during a transition. I find out what my students’ needs are, meet them there, and teach to what they need the most, whether that’s any combination in terms of their sociaI, cognitive, or physical development, and constantly change to address new things that come up. A preplanned curriculum is simply not my style. I have a passion for science in general (space science and engineering and natural history in particular), as well as loves of reading, math, and race cars. Your child may or may not pick up on these things, this is simply what I bring. One of my favorite things is working with and supporting families is to help solve problems, whether they’re home or school based. I provide strong boundaries and a big heart. I want to be able to provide not just an alternative, but a respite.
Me, without my usual hat, glasses, and even more black clothing:
I have other areas of my life that I am proud of as well. I met my husband in 1988 when I moved to Berkeley to help reopen 924 Gilman, and we’ve been together ever since. We have a horror and Halloween themed merchandising business and I do the organizing and bookkeeping and run our booth at various conventions and at movie theaters. We also make movies together. Some are horror movies, such as when we made a copy of “Nosferatu” with soundtrack, foley, and dialogue so it can be simply watched instead of read. Others are documentaries, with popular titles being “Remembering Playland,” “Jack Pierce,” and “San Francisco Cable Cars.” In 2018 I became a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician for my work with children and at the auto races. I’m a volunteer Scrutineer for the Sports Car Club of American and Historic Motor Sports Association and I work on the Fire/Safety team at Sonoma Raceway. If we start talking about auto racing, it’s hard for me to stop. I love it so much!!!
In my Pit Lane Fire Fighter gear:
If you’re interested in reading some books by people who I think are better at explaining my philosophies than myself, please consider journalist Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. Gifted to me when I was already teaching outside, its prose spoke to the yearnings my heart had for teaching freely outdoors. Chapter author (not realized by me until I read the book a second time to add resources to www.teachoutside.com) Paul Dayton was the professor who supplied me with the work of Christian Senka, who created the first versions of my web site. I’m really happy to have come across another couple of authors since I came to develop my style independently and it was really nice to discover I’m not alone. These are: Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, by Peter Gray, The Sudbury Valley School Experience, edited by Mimsy Sadofsky and Daniel Greenberg, and “The Challenge of Transplanting the European Forest Kindergarten to North America,” by Regina Wolf Fritz in Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning, edited by David Sobel.
A lot of my teaching work and history can be found by clicking on the social media links below. Please “friend” me to keep up to date, “TeachOutside Taylor” on facebook and Heather “Outside_School” Taylor on instagram!