Learning in the Great Outdoors
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters hosted a class field trip for Abby’s 7th Grade class during the last week of school. The kids were bussed up to Voyageur and then divided into four groups for separate learning opportunities. They welcomed the opportunity to learn outside because during their normal school day they aren’t allowed outside.
My kids attend school in Grand Marais, Minnesota so they ride a bus for an hour to get there and an hour to get home. They have to get outside to get to school and to return but they do not have recess and can not go outside for lunch. If you tack on the 7.5 hours they are inside at school each day that adds up to 9.5 hours a day and if you add 8 hours of sleep that’s 17.5 hours the kids have to spend inside. In the winter they have sport practices for another 2 hours indoors equalling 19.5 hours only 4.5 hours to spend outside if they don’t come inside to eat dinner, do homework or watch television.
Spending time outside has proven benefits and some schools acknowledge this by taking kids outside for learning. There is an organization called Eco Schools and they know being outdoors builds confidence and calmness as well as improves academic performance and they think it’s fun. It is so much easier and so much fun to learn outside as was demonstrated during my daughter’s field trip.
The school kids were able to participate at four different stations during the field trip and only one of those was indoors. One station found the kids learning to use a GPS and finding several geocaches filled with neat gifts. Another had them evaluating a home for the Firewise Program which determines how likely a structure is to burn if encountered by a forest fire. The last activity involved hiking, taking photos for a photo essay and learning about flora in the area. The students also had the opportunity to paddle a canoe from one station to the next and enjoyed lunch outside which they really loved.
I’ve substitute taught middle school kids and I can say they were way more behaved outside than they were inside. I’m sure they listened better, learned more and will retain the information better too. It would be wonderful if all schools could think creatively and allow more opportunities to teach kids outdoors. There are plenty of resources to be found and hopefully next year there will be more kids learning in the great outdoors.