Job Title: Schoolyards Teacher and Environmental Educator
Common Ground is a center for environmental learning and leadership in New Haven, Connecticut. Farm meets forest meets city on Common Ground’s 20 acre campus at the base of West Rock Ridge. The site abuts the 1800 acre West Rock State Park, sharing hiking trails, wildlife, and diverse natural habitats with the surrounding forests. Common Ground’s urban farm produces organically grown food for our programs and our community. Common Ground’s Charter High School serves 225 students with a focus on authentic, relevant learning experiences and environmental and social justice. Our Environmental Education programs serve over 10,000 community members annually who participate in festivals, field trips, after-school programs, summer camps, and other educational opportunities on our campus and in the greater New Haven community. For more information visit www.commongroundct.org.
The Schoolyards Program supports the creation and effective use of school gardens, schoolyard habitats, and outdoor classrooms in schools. We provide professional and technical support to help schools realize the full potential of teaching outside in deepening the academic and emotional learning of their students.
Schoolyards Teachers bring Common Ground’s outdoor education work to schools in the New Haven area, during the school day or afterschool. Schoolyards Teachers design their own curriculum based on the schoolyard space, the seasons, the needs of the school, and the interests of the children. They provide content-based learning about science, nature, and the environment as well as facilitate and create opportunities for adventure-based play. Schoolyards classes are conducted almost entirely outdoors in all weather, with indoor spaces used only in severe weather.
Schoolyards Teachers may be scheduled for four days per week of teaching and one day of program support OR five days of teaching. During a typical day, a Schoolyards Teacher will teach 5-6 classes of students in the schoolyard, ranging from pre-K through 8th grade. Topics/activities may include exploring leaves, investigating worms in a dig bed, planting flowers or vegetables, studying bird migration, repairing garden beds, building with loose parts, teambuilding activities, tasting produce from the garden, and more.
During the summer, we run a day camp, spending our days cooking, hiking, playing games, enjoying campfires, and creating magic for kids on Common Ground’s campus. Summer camp work is 5 days per week with campers, with some team members working in admin or hybrid admin/teaching roles.
This position requires exceptional behavior management skills, excellent judgment, adaptability, and the ability to balance traditional school requirements with outdoor education approaches. This position is ideal for someone with classroom teaching experience who enjoys the outdoors and is looking for a change. It is also perfect for an outdoor educator with experience doing their own lesson planning.
While this position prioritizes work in schools, it may also include work on Common Ground’s campus in our NatureYear and other outdoor education programs for children. During the summer, this position works in our summer camp.
We count on our full time Environmental Educators to be the stable core of our work - the knowledge holders, mentors, and leaders who form relationships with schools, children, and our place over time. Our ideal applicant is seeking connection and community and is looking for a role they can stay in for at least two years. Many of our team have been with us for 5 - 10 years!
Applicants should review program information on our website, as Schoolyards is a unique teaching opportunity that is amazing for the right applicant and is different from many traditional environmental education programs.
This position is full time, 40 hours per week, on a 12-month schedule that includes both school year and summer programs. Part time positions may also become available.
School day hours are approximately 8:30 am - 3:30 pm, with additional paid time for planning.
Experience planning and leading activities for groups of children ages 5 – 13 in a professional setting (school, preschool, nature center, etc).
Demonstrated success in a leadership/head teacher role in both school and outdoor settings.
Ability and desire to have significant autonomy and independent responsibility for planning lessons, planning and managing the flow of a day, and communicating with partnering schools and teachers. A strong, supportive team of people doing similar work is available for collaboration and ongoing professional development; the day-to-day work at schools is delivered independently, without a co-teacher from Common Ground.
A passion for Common Ground’s mission and commitment to equity, diversity and environmental sustainability.
Strong critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Ability to work independently and be self-directed as well as to compromise, communicate, be flexible, and work closely with a staff team and school teachers and administrators.
Commitment to working closely with a racially and economically diverse urban school community.
Strong written and oral communication skills, with both children and adults.
Comfort with working outdoors in all weather, including rain and snow.
Commitment to child-ce