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Emily Koebke Barsic: As a parent and a teacher, I have found a home at HHA

As a parent and teacher, I know the benefits outdoor exploration has on children's growth and learning. That in mind, a few years ago I was searching for a school that incorporated an outdoor element with academic learning. Fortunately, my daughter and I have found a home here at HHA.

As soon as I stepped foot on campus at Hickory Hill Academy, I fell in love with all the outdoor areas the campus has to offer. The nature playground, multiple gardens, animals, school forest, golfing green, and nature classrooms truly makes HHA what it is. Environments like this allow students to get more physical activity, learn social and emotional skills, participate in hands-on learning and so much more. Collectively, this aids in supporting the goal of fostering the holistic development of the child.

During the academic year, as a literacy teacher, I have found great joy in using the outdoor spaces here on campus. I regularly use the outdoor classrooms to teach lessons, and other areas around campus to engage students in practicing the concepts learned. One of my most student-loved activities includes exploring campus with our notebooks in hand, searching for objects that fit the word patterns we are currently learning. Additionally, we read and write outside any chance we get!

During the summer, as the garden teacher, I absolutely love watching the children learn the plant growth process. The enthusiasm they have for every little detail of nature is inspiring to witness. I definitely find myself learning alongside them and their little minds. We grow a variety of fruits and vegetables from seeds, sprouts or small plants. As the gardens grow students follow along, helping give the plants what they need. Bright eyed, the students watch plants produce leaves, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. And then of course, we have to try to fresh organic food we have watched come to life before our eyes. Yum!

Hickory Hill Academy brings an outdoor element to learning that I wish I would have been so lucky to have experienced as a child. I find such joy in being able to share these beautiful spaces with the children and families on campus.

And lucky for me, my daughter gets to experience it too!

- Emily Koebke Barsic, HHA Classroom Teacher

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