4k students looking at a snake.

Ponds, hiking trails, and wildlife exhibits are the classroom spaces, and animals that wander into the area, including rabbits, snakes, toads and worms, are the classroom tools for forty 4K students in Green Bay.

The Outdoor Academy for Kids (OAK) School located at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is a new concept for Green Bay. It is the first nature-based four-year-old kindergarten program connected to a public school district in Wisconsin. The program is a partnership between UW-Green Bay, the Green Bay Area Public School District, and the City of Green Bay.

Admission is open to all, although families in the Green Bay Area Public School District have first choice for enrollment. The popular program is currently full with a waiting list.

Lessons are co-taught by a licensed teacher and a certified naturalist. Pre-service teachers from UW-Green Bay are gaining valuable hands-on experiences in environmental education and early childhood. 

The four-year-olds use the outdoors for their classroom, except for bathroom breaks, snack time, and when extreme weather conditions exist. For example, twenty students recently worked together to construct an eagle’s nest. This project involved engineering principles, math concepts, and collaboration. The overall program is based on four different domains — academic, physical, social and emotional.

Mike Reed is the director of the Wildlife Sanctuary. UW-Green Bay professors Scott Ashmann and Jennifer Lanter and Provost Julia Wallace are members of the OAK School Advisory Committee.